Big Transportation Projects Take Time and Money

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Our Metropolitan New York region faces internal competition for potentially $55 billion needed to fund major capital transportation improvements.  Billions more could be necessary by the time any project is completed and the true final costs are accounted for.

Current major capital construction projects under way include the Long Island Rail Road East Side Access project.  This will provide riders a direct connection to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan at a cost of $8 billion.

Next, is the first of four segments for the new Second Avenue Subway consisting of three stations between 96th Street and 63rd Street at a cost of $4.5 billion.

Some predict between $16 to $20 billion more could be required if you include an express track for completion of the next three segments of the Second Avenue Subway north to 125th Street and south to Water Street downtown in the Financial District.

Then there is the $14 billion to fund Amtrak’s proposed “Gateway” project for construction of a new tunnel providing additional access to Penn Station from New Jersey for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

How do we find $10 billion more for the No.7 subway extension from the Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan to New Jersey Transit’s Secaucus Junction station by Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike? Ditto for $5 billion to build a alternative extension to the PATH/New Jersey Transit Station in Hoboken, New Jersey.

There is a new estimate of $5 billion for replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. This could rise to $14 – $18 billion based on previous estimates if you add either Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail or Heavy Commuter Rail capacity.

Then there is $5 billion to $10 billion for construction of a new Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, which would put trucks on trains between New Jersey to either Brooklyn or Queens through to Long Island.

Finally, $1.5 billion for the Long Island Rail Road Main Line Third Track.  This would provide additional rush hour and reverse service capacity in the mornings and evenings for those who live in New York City and either work or attend college on Long Island for several key LIRR branches including Port Jefferson, Huntington, Oyster Bay and Ronkonkama running between Floral Park and Hicksville stations. There is also a connection for trains from Montauk, Speonk and Babylon via a spur between Babylon and Hicksville to gain access to this corridor.

The anticipated final potential cost for many of these projects will never be known until completion. Costs will be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the course of construction.  It is also difficult for anyone at this point to really predict when we will see a shovel in the ground, followed years later by beneficial use of some projects or the final price tag to taxpayers.

Perhaps the region needs to prioritize the order for implementation of these projects based upon realistic assumptions for available funding.