As No. 7 Extension Kicks Off, Cost Questions Loom

In a press conference in the Times Square subway station today, the mayor announced the groundbreaking (without shovels or dirt) of the 1.5-mile extension of the No. 7 subway line, a keystone in the city’s efforts to expand midtown to the far West Side.

While officials, including Governor Spitzer, Representative Jerrold Nadler, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, lined up at the press conference to pledge their support for the start of the project, the decision of who will pay to finish it—should there be any cost overruns—has been pushed off to a later day.

The budget for the project comes in at $2.1 billion, an amount put up entirely by the city and one that relies on future tax revenues in the now-nascent Hudson Yards district. That amount now covers less than what it was supposed to—in October, the city and Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to not build the shell of a station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street, leaving the extension with just one subway station, located by the Javits Center at 34th Street.

In selling the project in early 2004, the city pledged to pay for all of the project; but, with rising costs, the mayor has now indicated he wants the MTA to help foot the bill for any overruns and for any second station at 41st Street.

When asked about the discussions with the MTA, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff did not provide a clear answer, though suggested that if push came to shove, the costs would come from the “partnership” between the MTA and the city.

“We work through dozens of issues all the time, and we recognize that every decision is part of a broader relationship, and we are completely confident that if it were to come to that, which I don’t believe it will, we would work it out in the context of the broader relationship,” Mr. Doctoroff said.

Both the MTA President, Elliot (Lee) Sander, and Governor Spitzer echoed Mr. Doctoroff’s semi-ambiguous pledge to work things out, with Mr. Spitzer supporting putting off the decisions.

“If you were to try to resolve every one of these uncertainties and ambiguities before you began construction, you’d be back to the gridlock,” Mr. Spitzer said. “We’ll deal with them as they emerge and the partnership will permit us to resolve them.”

As for the station shell at 41st Street, Mr. Doctoroff said he still wanted to get it built, and could even look to Washington for the funding.

“We’ll be discussing with the MTA and our federal partners how we can do that,” he said.

However, the concept of federal funding came as a surprise to Representative Nadler’s office, which would be crucial in securing such monies.

“The city and the MTA have not talked to the congressman’s office at this time—we’d be happy to discuss the issue with them,” said Robert Gottheim, an aide to Mr. Nadler.