THEN THERE IS, PERHAPS more significantly, a general shift in strategy by state officials, who now are telling others they intend to break the project up into “bite size chunks” in the words of one advocate. Since its inception, the project has faltered in large part due to its immense (and often growing) size, with whomever is in charge never able to clinch the deal despite having, at various times, all the funding lined up.
Now, those steering the project project want to separate out a first step: expanding a Long Island Railroad concourse under Eighth Avenue so it can be used by the other railroads and be accessible to the Farley building, along with over $100 million in ventilation work.
One official involved with the project called this approach moving beyond “the Big Bang theory,” the method of executing everything at once, which has failed so many times before.
Of course, there isn’t money lined up specifically for the underground work in the first phase, estimated to cost more than $150 million, though that, in the view of officials working on the project, is where the stimulus comes in.
The first place the state is looking, expected in an application Tuesday, is a program termed TIGER, a $1.5 billion pot of stimulus money doled out at the broad discretion of the Obama administration to transportation projects that can have a “significant impact” on a region or the nation. A selection of recipients of the money is expected by February.
Officials are planning a second application for a to-be-determined amount of money from the $8 billion set aside in the stimulus for high-speed rail projects. Earlier this summer, the Paterson administration wrote in a preliminary application that it wanted a total of $398 million for Moynihan from the high-speed rail pot, arguing that an expanded Penn Station would have to be a prerequisite to any expansion of high-speed rail in the Northeast. (After all, 70 percent of all intercity rail trips in the Northeast start or end in Penn Station, the state wrote in the application, where the only high-speed train service in the country currently runs.)
“Failing to implement the Moynihan Station project will condemn intercity rail passengers to a cramped and substandard rail terminal in New York City for the foreseeable future, and will act as a bar to the implementation of true high-speed rail service,” the state’s preliminary application says.
THERE ARE SOME OBVIOUS questions about this approach. Most notably, the planned improvements for Moynihan Station do very little to speed up train service—but the Obama administration has seemed really eager to show progress to that end in its pitch for its high-speed rail plan.