Opinion – Something We Can All Agree On
Improving our country’s roads, bridges, tunnels and rail systems is a basic function of our government that has traditionally been supported by both parties. By investing in infrastructure, we not only repair deteriorating bridges, roads and tunnels, but also strengthen our communities and speed up commerce. It is one of the best ways to generate economic growth and create good paying jobs nationwide. As our country struggles with slow growth, I believe it is the right time for the federal government to make a significant investment in infrastructure.
In the New York Metropolitan area, and regions like it across the U.S., mass transit is how we commute. More than half of New Yorkers take mass transit to work, and one of the mass transit projects most in need of federal funding is the Second Avenue Subway.
After a century of planning, the first of four phases of the Second Avenue Subway opened this past January 1st to great fanfare and celebration. Since its opening, property values along the route have risen, most local business along the route report growth, and ridership has skyrocketed.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) says that 176,000 people use this subway route each day, an increase of more than 50,000 since it opened for revenue service eight months ago. To meet this demand, the MTA announced that it would be adding two additional trains.
The success of the Second Avenue Subway’s first phase is evidence that we need to finish the job and extend this line north to 125th Street in Harlem and south to Hanover Square. New Yorkers are using mass transit more than ever, with weekday subway ridership at its highest levels since 1948. As crowded subway cars grow more packed, would-be passengers are often left standing on the platform, watching several trains pass them by before they can squeeze on. With this kind of demand, expansion of the system is critical.
Although New York has more subway stations than any system in the world, our city suffers from “transit deserts” — areas that lack mass transit options. For example, the far east side of Manhattan has no subway, and the Lexington Avenue line, the closest option, is regularly derided as the most overcrowded subway in the nation. There truly is a limit to the number of people who can cram into a subway car. We need to address this issue by completing the Second Avenue Subway to benefit people along the entire route, and improving signaling so more trains can run on overcrowded lines.
New York City is not the only city in our country with transit deserts. States and cities across the country are in desperate need of transit improvements and expansions. Fortunately, mass transit development projects are some of the best investments we can make. They create jobs during construction and after completion. They take cars off the road, relieving congestion and improving the environment, and they make it easier for people to get to work, or just get around town, rather than being forced to turn down work because of an impossible commute.
The fact of the matter is that federal funding is critical to any project as big and complex as the Second Avenue Subway. With utility cables and water pipes buried under New York’s streets, and other subway tunnels already built, new subway construction is forced deep underground to avoid the older tunnels and any disruption to the electric and water grids. Phase 1 cost approximately $4.5 billion and it wouldn’t have gotten done without the $1.3 billion in federal funding that I helped secure. The subsequent phases are likely to be at least as expensive. But it will be well worth the investment when you consider the jobs and economic growth that it will generate.
Now is the time for our country to complete the full Second Avenue Subway and invest in similar transit projects across the country. New transit will be used by millions of people, bring economic opportunities to areas that have been overlooked, reach neighborhoods that have lacked transportation alternatives, and take people where they want to go. The economic growth and quality of life improvements that come with infrastructure development make it one of the best investments our country can make — and that is something we all, Democrats and Republicans, can agree on.
• Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, is Ranking Member on the House Joint Economic Committee and serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.