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Second Avenue subway still short $4 billion

Phase 2 of the subway might not be completed until 2030 or later.
People walk out of a subway train at the newly launched 96th Street Station on Jan. 4, 2017. (Getty Images)

There were many details in the recent MTA Capital Program Review Board approval of a $3 billion 2015 - 2019 MTA Five-Year Capital Plan Amendment that increased the total dollars from $29 billion to $32 billion. It included $700 million more for Phase 2 of the Second Avenue subway, but there is still the need of $4.265 billion in total funding for actual construction of Phase 2. The MTA will have to find a minimum of $2.265 billion in local dollars in the next MTA Five-Year 2020 - 2024 Capital Program. This would bring the total local funding commitment up to $4 billion.

Based on past history, the next MTA Five-Year Capital Plan may not be approved until 2021, but the MTA would not risk advertising multibillion construction project bids without secure funding being in place. Any procurement process could take six months to a year. Actual contracts for full construction could end up being awarded in 2022. If Phase 1 took 10 years to complete from the original 2007 contract award to January 2017, Phase 2 might not be completed until 2030 or later.

The MTA hopes to begin construction of the Second Avenue subway Phase 2 in 2019. Don't count on it. How many years will it take to complete the NEPA environmental review process? Which neighborhood will want to host any entrance for both a platform to support a tunnel boring machine and removal of construction debris? Also, the Second Avenue subway’s Phase 2 will end up competing against many other worthy projects in the next MTA Five-Year 2020 - 2024 Capital Plan. 

Going back decades, the city, state and MTA have consistently kicked the can down the road every five years. As a result, coming to a consensus on what to fund in the next Five-Year Capital Program Plan will be even more difficult. 

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Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.

 
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