Don't interrupt Second Ave. subway project

The Second Avenue Subway's 86th St. caverns on

The Second Avenue Subway's 86th St. caverns on July 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Flickr / mtaphotos

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Score it an encouraging move forward for the long-awaited Second Avenue "stubway." The MTA said last week it would include $1.5 billion for phase two of the line in its 2015-19 capital plan.

So when the MTA finishes building phase one over the next two years -- and is able to extend Q service on an itsy-bitsy stretch from 63rd to 96th streets -- the Second Avenue subway construction project should keep advancing north to 125th Street without undue delay.

That's no small thing.

New Yorkers have been talking about building a Second Avenue subway since the end of World War II.

Groundbreaking for the line's most recent incarnation took place in 1972. Then came Gotham's catastrophic brush with bankruptcy in 1975. Work lurched to a halt.

So now -- when the 33-block stub is completed in a little more than a year -- phase two into Harlem will begin.

The MTA still has plenty of design riddles and financial conundrums to resolve. And the $1.5 billion earmark will only pay for about a third of the Harlem leg. But MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast says straphangers could see shovels in the ground north of 96th Street by 2019.

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We'll hold him to his word.

It's true that the MTA is beleaguered with many major projects over the next five years that shouldn't be delayed. The agency's total $27 billion capital blueprint must bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central, refurbish a subway signaling system that often makes straphangers late, install new safety controls on commuter rail lines and protect the whole system from climate change.

Add to that a recent warning from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that, when the time comes for the MTA to spend on certain big-ticket projects, the money might not be there. He's worried about a $12 billion shortfall.

Nothing is certain. And straphangers certainly cannot be faulted for skepticism. We've been waiting for a second East Side line for eons. But ridership is up for now. Revenues, too. And there's a powerful civic consensus to move ahead. The MTA has miles to go and promises to keep -- and this time riders will hold the authority to its word.

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