2nd Ave. Subway project delayed by lack of funds

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The Second Avenue subway is renowned as the most famous subway never built, but now the project could once again face a threat, this time from the MTA’s maxed-out credit card and a financially beleaguered governor.

Gov. David Paterson announced last week the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed 2010-14 capital program was “simply unaffordable given New York’s current fiscal condition.”

“I will not agree to raise taxes, which would be required to fund the plan,” he said.

Paterson said the state could not afford upgrades tocity mass transit and upstate roads and bridges “until the economy improves, the federal government provides adequate multi-year funding and the Legislature joins me to seriously address the structural imbalance in the state budget.”

The Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of business, civic, labor and environmental organizations supporting investment in transportation, said it was “deeply concerned” about Paterson’s statement.

“These critical programs for state infrastructure, including public transit, roads and bridges, cannot be sacrificed because of the state’s budget mess,” the ESTA said.

“If left unfunded and unapproved, the state will signal an abandonment of the future as investment in key infrastructure creates jobs, supports environmentally efficient modes of travel and provides the capacity for growth,” the agency said.

“We as a coalition stand ready to work with the governor and Legislature to find the right solutions to making the critical capital investments that provide short-term stimulus and underpin longer-term economic growth and competitiv­eness,” the ESTA said.

The budget the governor termed as too expensive includes many other items besides the Second Avenue subway, such as the East Side Access to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal, both now scheduled for completion by 2017.The Second Avenue subway, which would siphon thousands of riders away from the already crowded Lexington line to Grand Central, is a key component of the East Side Access.

The Second Avenue subway, first conceived in the 1920s after many delays and postponement during World War II, got underway in the early 1970s but was again halted when New York City nearly went bankrupt in 1975.

The Second Avenue line was officially rededicated in a ceremony April 12, 2008, in a station at 99th Street and Second Avenue. The station, actually little more than a cemented cavity, was one of several built in the early 1970s.

The MTA’s financial troubles are many and varied but headlined by interest coming due from borrowing $24 billion. Financial officials say by sometime next year, interest will consume 25 percent of the agency’s income.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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