- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state’s Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) and Amtrak have signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of four new Metro-North Railroad stations that will increase access to Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station for those in the East Bronx area of the city.
- The Pennsylvania Access Project would use an underutilized rail line, and the modification of existing infrastructure would both minimize the disruption caused by construction and increase cost efficiencies. Service on the line would not begin until after the East River Tunnel rehab and the East Side Access Project are complete.
- The project will be funded with $695 million from the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program, with $250 million coming from the ESD. The MTA will fund an additional, unknown amount from its 2020-2024 Capital program budget. The MTA’s Metro-North committee, at its last meeting, approved a $35 million design and development contract with HNTB New York Engineering and Architecture and expects to issue the firm a Notice to Proceed soon, pending approval of the contract by the MTA’s full board and Amtrak.
The goal of the MTA and state officials when it comes to the new Penn Station initiative will likely be on cost control, especially given recent criticism about the price tag for New York City’s transportation projects. When compared to similar projects around the world, for instance, the East Side Access project costs are around seven times higher. Completion of the project will create a connection between the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Grand Central Terminal.
The East Side Access hit an estimated cost of $11.2 billion last May, up more than $9 billion from when it was first proposed in the 1990s and $1 billion more than 2014 projections. When complete in December 2022, some existing Penn Station traffic from the LIRR will be diverted to Grand Central, freeing up space at Penn Station for the new traffic coming from the East Bronx.
Because the MTA construction process is so slow and full of burdensome red tape, contractors, according to the MTA, sometimes add a 25% “MTA fee” as insurance against losses when dealing with the agency. These and other realizations led the authority to promise to streamline contracting procedures and cut construction time in half by making internal procurement and construction management changes. MTA commissioners said they could not continue to ask taxpayers to fund new projects without making serious attempts at cost reduction and increasing efficiencies.