You can learn a great deal about the priorities of our elected officials from what they say and don’t say when it comes to delivering funding for transportation projects.
Over the past few days, Senators Charles Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), joined by Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and others, announced federal funding of $1.3 billion toward advancing the $1.6 billion East River Tunnel reconstruction, $1.3 billion toward the $3.1 billion Metro North Bronx East Penn Station Access, $3.4 billion toward the $7.7 billion New York City Transit Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 and $3.8 billion toward Amtrak’s $16.8 billion Gateway Tunnel (for two new tunnels plus rehabilitation of two existing Hudson River tunnels connecting New Jersey with Penn Station) projects.
Not a dime as a down payment for any National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, additional planning or preliminary design, and engineering for the $3 billion plus MTA Long Island Railroad double tracking electrification of the Port Jefferson branch. This seed money, in the millions, is necessary for these improvements to the LIRR Port Jefferson branch can become eligible for any future Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant (CIG) from the New Starts Core Capacity Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for $1.5 billion many years down the road.
Schumer, Gillibrand and Hochul, by their actions, or in this case inaction, have clearly indicated no interest in supporting any advancement of future capital improvements to the Port Jefferson LIRR branch. Commuters, residents, project advocates, and others may want to consider withholding their potential campaign contributions and votes when these electeds run for another term in office. This is the only influence we have.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval, and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for NJ Transit, MTA, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry, along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.