In politics, talk is cheap, as they say. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump talked a good game, calling for a $1 trillion national infrastructure program that would modernize the country’s ailing transportation network.
So far, nothing.
Mired in a bevy of scandals, the Trump administration appears unable to get out of the gate. Meanwhile, here in New York, we are seeing action. We can only say thank goodness and bravo to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo’s governorship was faltering only a handful of years ago, as he struggled to formulate a coherent education policy. After a series of policy shifts, he appears to be moving past the disaster that was Common Core and is now focusing on revamping the state’s infrastructure to upgrade it to 21st-century standards, particularly in the metropolitan area, including on Long Island.
That’s good for all of us. Not only will better airports, railways, roads and bridges make our lives easier, but infrastructure upgrades on the massive scale that the state is undertaking will infuse tens of billions of dollars into the economy. That will mean more high-paying construction jobs, which will mean more people will have more money to spend. That’s a win-win.
In May, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors allocated $1.95 billion to the construction of a third Long Island Rail Road track down the center of Nassau County, on the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. Earlier this month, the State Legislature OK’d the project, which will add 9.8 miles of new track to the 700-mile LIRR system, create 2,250 construction jobs and pump more than $900 million into Long Island’s economy. Among its most ardent supporters are the Long Island Association and the Right Track for Long Island Coalition.
In total, the state will spend $5.6 billion to improve the LIRR, including reconstruction of the Jamaica station and 39 other depots and rail crossings. Among the local stations slated for redevelopment are Baldwin, Bellmore, Carle Place, Farmingdale, Floral Park, Hicksville, Merrick, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Valley Stream and Westbury.
And that’s just one small part of the state’s plan to upgrade our infrastructure. LIRR improvements represent only 5.6 percent of the state’s total projected spending on infrastructure in the coming years. Yes, New York is allocating $100 billion statewide for new construction projects. It is the largest infrastructure program that any state is currently undertaking, according to Cuomo.
Central to this plan is the construction of a new Hudson Tunnel, between New York and New Jersey, and the rehabilitation of existing train tubes. The Gateway Project, as it’s called, will connect travelers from across the Northeast with New York City and Long Island. Complementing this critical project is the development of the new Penn-Farley Complex, featuring the new Moynihan Train Hall, a $1.6 billion, 255,000-square-foot rail hub expected to open in 2020. Penn-Farley also includes the new West End Concourse, which enables LIRR commuters to board trains without entering Penn Station.
As well, the East Side Access project will create the first direct LIRR service to Manhattan’s East Side and vastly increase ridership capacity to and from the city. The project has been years in the making. We look forward to its completion in the coming years.
Clearly, if Trump needs a model of how to do infrastructure right, he need look no further than his home state of New York.