Planes, trains, and automobiles: Tracking Cuomo’s ambitious infrastructure proposals

Planes, trains, and automobiles: Tracking Cuomo’s ambitious infrastructure proposals

Planes, trains, and automobiles: Tracking Cuomo’s ambitious infrastructure proposals
May 2, 2016

In the days leading up to his State of the State address in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced one major project after another: adding tracks on a busy Long Island Rail Road line. Transforming Penn Station into “a world-class transportation hub.” Funding a “fundamental” transformation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Money for bridges, roads and airports. And on and on.

The total price tag for the governor’s long list of infrastructure projects? A whopping $100 billion, a top Cuomo aide said in January. (Much of the funding will come from the federal government and the MTA, however, undercutting the governor’s status as the state’s hundred billion dollar man.)

So, now that the state budget is over and done with, what’s the status of this ambitious infrastructure program? Is the governor’s transportation agenda still on track?


The official line: “This budget supports a massive infrastructure construction program – literally $27 billion for the MTA, which is the largest capital plan for the MTA,” Cuomo said during the announcement of a budget deal at the end of March. That includes $1.5 billion for the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway, one of the MTA’s most high-profile projects.

On the other hand: A Cuomo administration official said that there was only $1 billion actually allocated for the MTA capital plan. “There is an appropriation for the first year and there is language as well that addresses the long term,” state Budget Director Robert Mujica said.

Timeline: The five-year capital plan covers 2015-2019. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway is scheduled for completion in December 2016. Tunnel boring on the second of three phases could start in 2019.

Cost: The state has committed $8.3 billion to the MTA’s $27 billion five-year capital plan. The entire Second Avenue Subway is expected to exceed $17 billion.


The official line: “If Vice President Biden was critical of LaGuardia Airport, we’re only lucky he didn’t take a train and end at Penn,” Cuomo said in January. “I can only imagine what he would have said. But we won’t give him the chance. We will build a new Penn Moynihan complex, finally.” The state would work with Amtrak to combine Penn Station and the adjacent James A. Farley Post Office into a redesigned “Empire Station Complex.”

On the other hand: Experts say one key question with the project is the fate of Madison Square Garden, which sits atop Penn Station and may have to be relocated. In fact, a decade ago the state selected two developers to turn the post office building into Moynihan Station, but their plans, including one that involved moving Madison Square Garden, never took off.

Timeline: The Cuomo administration said it would break ground this year and complete “substantial construction” within three years.

Cost: $3 billion.


The official line: “Our $20 billion Gateway Partnership, a project long overdue, is now a reality,” Cuomo said in January. “It is a coordinated effort among the federal government, New Jersey and New York. It will build a new rail tunnel – the first in 100 years – and it will speed commuters from the west.”

On the other hand: The project replaces the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed that project in 2010, setting back years the effort to build new rail tunnels under the Hudson River. Going forward, there have also been questions about how New Jersey and New York will split the costs.

Timeline: Several parts of the project will be completed between 2019 and 2030. New rail tunnels and renovation of existing tunnels will take a decade.

Cost: An estimated $20 billion. New York and New Jersey have offered to pay half of the costs, with the federal government covering the other half.


The official line: “… We will build a new airport to replace the outdated LaGuardia,” Cuomo said in January. “Not rebuilding what was, but building a whole new state of the art airport. It will be the first new airport in the United States in over 20 years and New York will lead the way again.”

On the other hand: Experts have noted that the project doesn’t add any new runways, calling in question whether the overhaul will do anything to reduce delays.

Timeline: The biggest portion of the project, a $4 billion unified main terminal, will be partially completed and open to passengers in 2019, with full completion 18 months later, the Cuomo administration said last year.

Cost: $5.3 billion. 


The official line: “We need to add a third track to the Long Island rail system so we can expedite commuters and promote intra-island transit,” Cuomo said in January. The “major expansion and improvement project” would be on a 9.8-mile stretch between Floral Park and Hicksville and allow for trips in both directions during peak hours.

On the other hand: It is unclear how the project will be paid for. The idea has also drawn opposition from local residents in the past, although Cuomo said fewer homeowners would be displaced under his plan.

Timeline: The administration has only announced $7 million for a study and community outreach.

Cost: $1.5 billion for the entire project.


The official line: “Our new Tappan Zee Bridge is an exciting symbol of what we can accomplish,” Cuomo said in January. “A bridge that other administrations couldn’t even begin is now moving forward. It’s rising from the Hudson like our aspiration is rising for this state.”

On the other hand: It is unclear how the project will be paid for, including how high tolls will have to be raised.

Timeline: The opening of the first span has been pushed back to spring or summer of 2017. The second span is set to be open in 2018.

Cost: $3.98 billion.


The official line: “Upstate’s roads and bridges, broadband and other infrastructure must be upgraded also,” Cuomo said in January. “I propose the largest roads and bridges investment in history – a $22 billion, five-year investment – achieving parity with downstate.”

On the other hand: Most of that $22 billion was already in the state Department of Transportation’s capital plan, although the final budget deal did raise the total to $27 billion.

Timeline: The funding will be in the Department of Transportation’s five-year capital plan.

Cost: $27 billion.

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s editor-in-chief.