Advancing the Long Island Rail Road’s long-delayed East Side Access plan and making sure the LIRR gets an equitable share of funds are among Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top priorities for the MTA’s five-year capital program, according to a letter sent by the governor to the transportation agency.
In the letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board released Monday, Cuomo urged the agency’s leadership to take advantage of the “unprecedented opportunities” presented by the new congestion pricing system in Manhattan.
The revenue from the new tolls will be dedicated to the MTA’s next capital program, which will fund major infrastructure investments through 2024. MTA officials have estimated the capital program, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks, will cost about $40 billion.
“The Capital Plan provides a historic opportunity in that new funding has been secured to support $25 billion in Capital Plan projects including from the State's passage of Congestion Pricing in the Central Business District,” Cuomo said in his letter. “I want to advise you of my priorities for the Capital Plan before it is prepared and presented.”
Although most of the items on the governor’s wish list involved improvements to the New York City Transit subway and bus systems — including efforts to address homelessness, fare evasion and other quality-of-life issues on the subways, and to make more subway stations accessible for people with disabilities — the governor said improvements to the Long Island Rail Road “must be prioritized.”
MTA Board member Kevin Law, who represents Suffolk County, said he believes it's important to hear Cuomo’s priorities for the plan.
“I was particularly pleased to see that he highlighted the need for Long Island to receive an equitable distribution of resources and that construction projects impacting our commuters remain priorities,” Law said.
Cuomo called for state-of-the-art signal systems to be installed to speed up trains, and said “long-delayed construction projects” — such as the $11.2 billion East Side Access project, which would create a second Manhattan station for the LIRR at Grand Central Terminal — should be a top focus.
Cuomo also called for the LIRR, its sister commuter railroad Metro-North, and New York City’s outer boroughs to “receive an equitable distribution of resources” in the capital program, which historically has favored the MTA’s subway system. In the agency’s 2015-19 capital program, of the about $32.5 billion in total spending, $14.5 billion went to the subways, compared with $3 billion for the LIRR.
Legislation passed by the State earlier this year designated 80 percent of toll revenues from congestion pricing go for buses and subways. The LIRR and Metro-North will each get 10 percent.
The MTA is yet to release a draft of its proposed capital program, which must be passed by its board before being submitted to the state’s four-member Capital Program Review Board for final approval.