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Schumer asks feds to fund East Side Access

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has appealed to federal officials to approve the $2.2 billion vital to completing the East Side Access project, which could start bringing Long Island Rail Road commuters into Grand Central Terminal in 2016.

Schumer suggested the $2.2 billion in federal funds recently rejected by New Jersey could become New York City’s salvation.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said “the state’s ongoing fiscal reality demands that we think creatively about how to fund the MTA’s vital infrastructure investments, and we are focused on reducing costs and pursing innovative financial opportunities like this one.”

The MTA applied recently for a low interest loan of $2.2 billion from the Federal Railroad Administration.

“This project is one of the single-largest transportation initiatives in the country,” Schumer said. “It requires a bold investment to ensure that we can complete it and I am strongly urging the Federal Railroad Administration to approve this loan to the MTA.”

Some $5 billion has been spent so far on the East Side Access, but the MTA must still come up with around $2.2 billion to finish the job, now scheduled for completion in 2016.

The project would bring LIRR trains into a station more than 100 feet below Grand Central Terminal, saving an estimated 160,000 daily commuters from 30 to 40 minutes now spent changing from the LIRR at Penn Station to subways, buses or taxis en route to jobs on Manhattan’s East Side.

It would include an LIRR station in Sunnyside. The MTA said it would cut pedestrian crowding in Penn Station and reduce crowding on subway lines arriving and departing Penn Station and on the No. 7 line.

Schumer wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo asking for their support.

“MTA’s loan application is similar to the funding opportunity your agency presented to New Jersey, [which] was slated to receive up to $2.2 billion … in funding as an incentive to continue the Access to Region’s Core [railroad] tunnel under the Hudson River,” Szabo said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rejected the project.

“As such, I highly encourage you work with the MTA on this funding opportunity.” Schumer said.

Schumer said the money was vital so the huge project is not forced to “abruptly stop, which could put thousands of construction workers and suppliers across New York out of work.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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