Maloney Calls on FTA to Maintain Funding Levels for Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access

May 5, 2011
Press Release
New York, NY – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney today called on Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff to preserve the funding originally proposed for the nation’s two largest New Starts projects - the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access, calling them “vital to the New York City region's $1.26 trillion economy, the second-largest regional economy in the world.”




In her letter, Congresswoman Maloney pointed out that New Yorkers use mass transit more than any other part of the country and that our bridges, tunnels, roads and railroads are over capacity, giving us the nation’s longest commuting times.  She also reasoned that both projects had been postponed during prior fiscal crises after having been partially built in decades past, and that these projects should not have to be delayed again. 

“A sudden reduction in federal funding could impede progress on these critical projects,” wrote Maloney.  “Please do not allow the current fiscal crisis to derail Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access.  Accordingly, I urge you to maintain the originally agreed schedule for funding these two critical projects.”

The full letter follows below:

May 5, 2011

Mr. Peter Rogoff
Administrator
Federal Transit Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Administrator Rogoff:

The recently passed Continuing Resolution (P.L. 112-10) rescinds $280 million in FY2010 from the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) New Starts program.  The Continuing Resolution does not specifically list the particular projects in the New Starts program that should lose money as a result, instead giving the FTA the authority to determine which projects to reduce.  I strongly urge you preserve the funding originally proposed for the two largest New Starts projects in the country - the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access.  Together these projects will move more people than the other New Start projects combined.  They are vital to the New York City region's $1.26 trillion economy, the second-largest regional economy in the world.

The Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access will provide significant improvements to the nation’s most heavily-used transit network, providing relief to systems that are already significantly over capacity.  Residents of New York City and the surrounding counties use mass transit more than any other region of the country, and yet there has been little expansion of our transportation infrastructure over the last half century. 

The Second Avenue Subway has been proposed and delayed since the 1920s, sacrificed to successive fiscal crises.  Indeed, New York City’s transit system actually lost capacity when two elevated subway lines were torn down during the 1940s and 1950s in expectation that the new subway would be built.  Sections of the tunnel for the subway were dug during the 1970s, but abandoned during New York’s fiscal crisis.  Now that the project has been resurrected, New Yorkers have had reason to believe that the subway would actually be completed.  Since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) broke ground on the subway in 2007, one full tunnel and a significant portion of the second tunnel have been constructed, and a significant amount of work has been done on the station entrances and ancillary facilities.  There has been a heavy price to pay for this good work, with many local retailers reporting that construction has cost them 25% or more of their expected business.  Reducing funding will force the MTA to stretch out the construction schedule, increasing pressure on these vulnerable small businesses.

Similarly, the MTA has made substantial progress on East Side Access, with a significant number of tasks completed and tunnels being dug under Manhattan’s streets.  East Side Access was originally proposed during the late 1960s, and a tunnel was built to accommodate it under the East River.  That tunnel, built largely with federal funds, was long derided as the tunnel to nowhere.  It was completely unused until the MTA completed the 63rd Street Tunnel Connector project in 2001, allowing it to bring trains through the upper level.  East Side Access will make use of the lower level of the tunnel, which has never been used.  When completed, the project will shave considerable time off daily travel time for residents of the region of the country with the longest commuting times.  It will also expand capacity on the Long Island Railroad for the first time in decades and will create a new LIRR stop in New York City’s fourth-largest central business district in Long Island City.  With more of New York City’s jobs centered in Manhattan and New York’s bridges, tunnels, roads and railroads at or over capacity, our ability to grow is limited without the construction of new train lines.  Completion of East Side Access is crucial for our area.

As you know, the FTA and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have worked closely to keep these projects on schedule and on budget.  A sudden reduction in federal funding could impede progress on these critical projects.  These projects were delayed in past decades because of economic downturns.  Please do not allow the current fiscal crisis to derail Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access.  Accordingly, I urge you to maintain the originally agreed schedule for funding these two critical projects.

Thank you for your kind attention to these concerns, consistent with all applicable rules and regulations.

Very truly yours,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress