All the NYC Transit Improvements That Won’t Happen with a Congestion Pricing Freeze

More than $16 billion worth of work to modernize and maintain New York City’s transit system will be halted due to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s pause on congestion pricing, officials said. MTA officials announced Wednesday.

The announcement was made during the transportation company’s first board meeting since Hochul suspended the toll program earlier this month. Details of the new plans – which board members called a “financial disaster” and “disastrous” – mean officials are temporarily undoing the MTA’s capital plan that was formed five years ago with the promise of integrating aging subways, buses and commuter rail. the 21st century.

MTA Director Tim Mulligan said the lack of revenue from congestion tolls, which were previously scheduled to begin June 30, forced the agency to prioritize system maintenance and postpone projects worth a total of $16.5 billion. This includes the purchase of new subway cars and 250 new electric buses worth $1.5 billion.

Work to make 23 stations accessible to passengers with disabilities will also be set aside, according to the MTA. And, as agency officials said last week, work on the Second Avenue subway extension to East Harlem will not move forward.

“This presentation was disastrous,” Midori Valdivia, an MTA board member appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, said Wednesday.

Lisa Sorin, who was appointed to the board by Hochul, called the cuts “very concerning.”

The board meeting began with a line snaking around MTA headquarters: 140 people signed up to speak, and the majority of them opposed Hochul’s pause on congestion pricing.

The governor’s decision derailed the MTA’s current investment plan for construction projects across the system. When the plan was first presented in 2019, former MTA Chairman Pat Foye described it as “historic” and “transformational,” promising that it would provide passengers with “more reliable and more effective “.

Congestion pricing was designed to fund improvements worth $15 billion, or about 30 percent of the total cost of the five-year plan. But officials said Wednesday that pausing the toll program will cost the MTA even more because the agency will have to defer federal subsidies that rely on local funding.

The good-government group Reinvent Albany estimated that Hochul’s decision also put 100,000 state jobs tied to MTA projects at risk.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated that subway signal upgrade projects will likely face the most cuts due to the pause in congestion tolls. Mulligan said at the MTA board meeting that upgrades to the A, B, CD, F and M lines would be delayed.

The currently-pending Second Avenue Subway project to extend the Q line to East Harlem relies on both a $3.4 billion federal grant and about $5 billion that the MTA had previously planned to obtain through congestion pricing. Officials said $2 billion in federal money could not be disbursed without the MTA funding its own share, although MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said the subsidy would not go away.

The agency has “no intention of abandoning this grant, we are upfront that we need to take some time to move the work forward,” Lieber said.

The MTA had planned to activate congestion pricing toll readers on June 30.

Deb Cohn-Orbach/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the MTA announced that it had already issued a stop work order regarding the relocation of utilities for the project and would wait for a contract to be issued to dig the tunnel for the extension.

In recent weeks, Hochul and state lawmakers have said they are exploring other funding sources to close the MTA’s budget gap. But the state Legislature’s annual session ended without a replacement plan moving forward. Hochul could call lawmakers back for a special session this summer to reach a deal.

“When this financial solution that we’re talking about comes, God willing, we’ll be ready to put Humpty Dumpty back together as quickly as possible,” Lieber said, stressing that the MTA must be ready to launch the deferred projects when funding materializes.

In a statement after the board meeting, Hochul said she still plans to fund all of the MTA projects that have been put on hold. She also called on the agency to cut costs.

“This administration’s proven commitment to the MTA, along with my track record of providing resources for critical state budget priorities, should give the MTA complete confidence in future funding streams,” a- she declared. “While the timing of the next budget may require temporary adjustments to the timing of some contracts, there is no reason for New Yorkers to be concerned that planned projects will not be delivered.

DiNapoli said he expects the transportation company to postpone many of those projects in the next four-year capital plan, expected in the fall.

“The MTA’s decisions in the coming weeks and months will affect riders for years to come,” he wrote in a statement. “The MTA will be forced to postpone much-needed investments in expanding and improving the system. These choices will directly affect the riders.

Hochul justified his decision by saying the $15 base fare for drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street would have imposed an undue economic burden on them and jeopardized the city’s recovery from the pandemic. She also said she needed time to find a new revenue source for the MTA from the state Legislature.

During an appearance on CNBC this weekend, she said “$15 is the wrong price.”

“I am the biggest supporter of the New York City subway system,” Hochul continued.

This story has been updated with a statement from Gov. Kathy Hochul.

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