A deal has been reached to fund the MTA's proposed $26-billion capital program, which will cover transportation infrastructure projects in the region over the next five years, including on the Long Island Rail Road, it was announced Saturday.
After months of pressure by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to raise the city's contribution to the program to $2.5 billion, an increase from the previously offered amount of less than $700 million.
Combined with $8.3 billion in state aid promised by Cuomo and $17 billion that the MTA says it can come up with, the plan appears ready to be green lit by the state's Capital Review Board -- a year after it was proposed and later than any other time in the program's 33-year history.
"This plan will mean a safer, stronger, more reliable transit system for people all over New York, and is crucial in supporting our growing economy," Cuomo said in a statement. "And this program would not have been possible without everyone stepping up to pay their fair share. Today with this agreement, we are making a historic investment not only in the MTA, but in the future of New York."
The program includes funding for new LIRR train cars, completion of railroad's ongoing effort to construct a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma and to finish paying for East Side Access -- the MTA's megaproject linking the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.
MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast has said that if the plan is not approved by next month, East Side Access could see further delays, as the authority would not have the money to award key construction contracts.
"Today, with agreement on the largest capital program ever committed to the future of the MTA, we take a giant step toward making sure that this one-of-a-kind jewel of a system will continue doing what it must -- keeping New York and the region moving, and moving ahead," Prendergast said in a statement. "We are grateful to the state and city for making possible the largest MTA capital program in its history."
The city initially balked at the request to increase its subsidy, arguing that it already pays its fair share, including more than 70 percent of the MTA's annual operating budget. But the MTA has pointed out that the city's capital contribution has barely changed in more than three decades, even though the agency's public transportation network primarily serves New York City.
"Our transit system is the backbone of New York City's, and our entire region's, economy," de Blasio said in a statement. "That is why we're making a historic investment -- the city's largest ever general capital contribution -- while ensuring that NYC dollars stay in NYC transit, and giving NYC riders and taxpayers a stronger voice."
The LIRR's chief union leader, Anthony Simon, praised Cuomo for "spearheading the largest effort in history to keep the MTA running safely."
"Public transportation ridership is growing throughout the region, and since the most intense pressure is felt in the City where 90% of the MTA's customers are, it's only fair that the city help pay to keep the subways and buses moving," Simon said.
"The city's commitment of $2.5 billion to this plan is a real investment in the future, and once again, Governor Cuomo has shown his visionary leadership in addressing the long-term challenges of rebuilding infrastructure, improving transportation and keeping New Yorkers working."