WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump posted a tweet Saturday that appeared to be a positive development for the extension of the Second Avenue subway up to 125th Street, but it left officials from New York wary and scratching their heads.
Trump, who is in France at the G-7 summit, signaled in the tweet that he intended to help Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, despite a long and acrimonious relationship, and the new MTA leadership team complete the latest phase of the long-running project with a price tag as high as $6 billion.
“Looking forward to helping New York City and Governor @andrewcuomo complete the long anticipated, and partially built, Second Avenue Subway. Would be extended to East 125th Street in Harlem,” Trump tweeted while in France for the summit with other world leaders. “Long in the making, they now have the team that can get it done!”
But Cuomo’s communications director, Dani Lever, responded cautiously. And press aides to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), longtime backers of decadeslong project, said they didn’t know what to make of Trump’s post on Twitter.
“The president's tweet suggests good news but we have no specific funding or approval and that is all that is relevant,” Lever said in a statement.
"The governor continues to have ongoing discussions with the president and federal Department of Transportation over advancing major infrastructure projects, including the Gateway Tunnel project, LaGuardia Airport and the Second Avenue Subway,” Lever said.
“If an agreement actually materializes, we will provide an update," she said.
The MTA is seeking federal funds to cover a third of the cost for phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway, which will extend the Q train from East 96th Street to East 125th Street with new stations at East 106th, 116th, and 125th streets.
The estimated cost of that extension has been as high as $6 billion, but the New York Daily News in April reported that Janno Lieber, head of MTA construction, had plans that could knock off $1 billion from the final expense.
Lieber said that might save $500 million by using a tunnel built from 110th Street to 120 Street in East Harlem in a failed bid to build a Second Avenue line in the 1970s, and another $500 million by reducing excavation at the 125th Street station.
Meanwhile on Friday, New York and New Jersey made a bid to break the impasse with the U.S. Transportation Department over federal funding with a new plan for the Gateway rail tunnel under the Hudson River that slashes nearly $1.5 billion off the $11 billion cost estimate.
The net cost decrease means the states will seek $5.4 billion from a federal grant program instead of $6.8 billion, project officials said in an email, The Associated Press reported. The century-old Hudson tunnel needs repair after damages by superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Transportation Department officials say they have given the Gateway project low ratings because of its high cost, more than any other in the country, and because New York and New Jersey plan to use federal loans to pay for their $5 billion-to-$6 billion share of the project.