An update on Cuomo's biggest infrastructure projects

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceremoniously unveils the second span of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceremoniously unveils the second span of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge.
Mike Groll/Office of the Governor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceremoniously unveils the second span of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge.

An update on Cuomo's biggest infrastructure projects

Six major projects the governor is using to build his record.
September 10, 2018

As the Democratic gubernatorial primary approaches, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been leaning on his track record of completing big public projects. In its recent endorsement of Cuomo, The New York Times cited a list of major infrastructure achievements as a reason to vote for the incumbent.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest construction projects underway in the state – and Cuomo has his fingerprints over all of them.

Gateway rail tunnel

The Gateway Program, a set of projects to upgrade and expand passenger rail service on both sides of the Hudson River, has been recognized as one of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. At the backbone would be a new rail tunnel and the rehabilitation of the existing century-old rail tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan. The existing tunnel carries more than 200,000 passengers daily and a potential shutdown could threaten 10 percent of the nation’s GDP. The Obama administration had agreed to pay for half of the program’s costs, now projected to exceed $30 billion, but the Trump administration has expressed its opposition to providing federal funding. Congress has set aside funding that can be used for Gateway anyway, and local officials have reworked the funding plan to make up for the lack of federal support. Expected to be completed by 2030, aspects of the project have started moving forward incrementally, with two of the three casings being placed that will be used to connect the tunnel to Penn Station. The deadline to place the third is looming over developers as construction on the Hudson Yards megaproject on the ground above where it needs to be placed nears completion. Early construction began last fall on replacing the equally debilitated Portal North Bridge in New Jersey, which is a critical piece of the Gateway Program.

LaGuardia Airport

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Laguardia Airport rendering
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Laguardia Airport rendering
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Laguardia Airport rendering
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A rendering of LaGuardia Airport renovations. The project will bring the airport closer to the highway.
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A rendering of LaGuardia Airport renovations. The project will bring the airport closer to the highway.
Image Credit: 
Image courtesy Office of the Governor
In June 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined by then-Vice President Joe Biden – who had famously compared the facility to one out of a “Third World country” – to announce that renovations had begun on LaGuardia Airport to help it tend to its decades-old terminals. An estimated $8 billion is being spent on a two-part project that Cuomo’s office described as “the first complete rebuild of an airport in the United States in more than 20 years.” The first part of the project is to redesign Terminal B, also known as the Central Terminal Building, into a 1.3 million-square-foot terminal with 37 gates and a grander main entrance. The second part, which began last year, is set to connect the Delta-operated C and D terminals to this new facility – an undertaking that will move the airport closer to the highway and expand aircraft taxiways to reduce delays. A new roadway network, the now-open West Parking Garage and an AirTrain between the airport and the Mets-Willets Point No. 7 subway station are intended to improve transportation connections to the airport. In its entirety, the renovation is expected to be done by 2026, although the governor’s office said Terminal B would be open to the public in 2019 and be fully completed in 2021. Work on Concourse A is set to be completed by 2022. Magic Johnson Enterprises and Loop Capital invested $10 million in the project and the work to the C and D terminals will be financed mostly by Delta with up to $600 million from the Port Authority. At the end of July, a highway overpass was completed that should improve traffic around the airport.

Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge

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Andrew Cuomo standing in front of the Mario Cuomo Bridge
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Andrew Cuomo standing in front of the Mario Cuomo Bridge
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Andrew Cuomo standing in front of the Mario Cuomo Bridge
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands in front of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
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Andrew Cuomo standing in front of the Mario Cuomo Bridge
Image Credit: 
Mike Groll/Office of the Governor
Construction on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge – named for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father – began in 2013. It replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge that connected Rockland and Westchester counties, with the first span opening in August 2017. The construction of the new bridge and the demolition of the old one were expected to be done by April, according to the contract between the state Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors, meaning the project missed its deadline. The second span was scheduled to be opened for traffic on Friday, with four lanes going in each direction, but the opening was stalled due to a safety issue. It’s now scheduled to open on Tuesday. There’s no word on when the demolition of the old Tappan Zee Bridge will be completed, but so far the project has managed to stay under the initial $3.98 billion budget – although it reportedly may end up costing more than $4 billion.

Penn Station complex

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A rendering of Penn Station
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A rendering of Penn Station
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A rendering of the renovated Penn Station
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A rendering of the renovated Penn Station, which will add a number of new entrances and let in more natural sunlight.
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A rendering of the renovated Penn Station, which will add a number of new entrances and let in more natural sunlight.
Image Credit: 
Image courtesy the MTA
The $3 billion project to transform Penn Station and the adjacent James A. Farley Post Office into a “world-class transportation hub” would address the overcrowding and limited capacity at the train complex. From the inside, Penn Station would be altered to include expanded corridors, natural sunlight, reconfigured connectivity between the street and lower level, and upgrades to signage and wayfinding facilities. Pedestrians on the street would see retail and commercial space and a number of new entrances. An underground pedestrian pathway is in the works to connect Penn Station to the old post office, which is being converted into the Moynihan Train Hall – roughly 255,000 square feet (about the size of the main room at Grand Central Terminal) – that would provide services for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers. Construction on Moynihan Train Hall began in August 2017, and the entire project is expected to be completed by 2020.

Kennedy Airport

John F. Kennedy International Airport, the 16th busiest in the world in 2016, is expected to reach capacity by the mid-2020s, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. In response, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey selected a team in September 2017 to do the initial engineering and design of the airport’s $10 billion redevelopment. In executing the transformation, the Mott MacDonald and Grimshaw Architects team will prioritize six goals: interconnecting terminals, redesigning roadways into a circular configuration, centralizing and expanding parking lots within that ring road configuration, building retail and conference facilities, expanding airplane taxiways and adding flight slots, and adding security technology. There are also plans to expand new terminals and redevelop old ones and improve both road and mass transit access to the airport. While construction hasn’t started, a Port Authority spokesperson told City & State that the project is “moving forward” and that “extensive discussions continue with all terminal operators” in order to coordinate the planning process. “We continue to gain momentum and will be making an announcement about the first phase of redevelopment in the near future.”

Buffalo waterfront transformation

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Buffalo Waterfront
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Buffalo Waterfront
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Buffalo Waterfront
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Buffalo Waterfront
Image Credit: 
Shutterstock
A series of three projects along Buffalo’s waterfront is intended to highlight the city’s history and improve access to the water. In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced a $24 million plan to improve recreation opportunities for local residents and enhance Buffalo’s tourism sector, which it said generated $3 billion in direct visitor spending last year. The first project is the $10 million transformation of a two-acre area near the water where the old Memorial Auditorium used to be located. The state plans to build walkable streets with “elements of the historic street pattern” and an underground area for parking to set the stage for future development. A request for proposals is supposed to go out in the fall. The second project will be a $4 million replica of a vessel – Gov. DeWitt Clinton’s 1825 Erie Canal packet boat – that will be housed in a 4,000-square-foot facility. Finally, the state plans to build a $10 million Buffalo Blueway – a network of waterway public access points.

Correction: The planned renovation of Penn Station no longer includes the removal of the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Prachi Bhardwaj
is a tech and policy reporter for City & State.
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