President Trump promised to spend “big” on infrastructure on Monday as he wondered if people are injured by falling debris from New York’s aging tunnels.
“Infrastructure; we’re going to start spending on infrastructure big,” Trump said at the National Governors Association meeting in the White House state dining room.
He specifically called out the Lincoln and Queens Midtown tunnels for appearing “unsafe.”
“I mean, we have tunnels in New York where the tiles are — on the ceiling and you see many tiles missing,” Trump said. “And you wonder … you take a look at the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and you’re driving and you see all this loose material that’s heavy.
“And I say to myself every time I drive through, I say, ‘Man, I wonder how many people are hurt or injured when they’re driving at 40, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel and a tile falls off,’ ” Trump continued. “And there’re so many missing tiles and such loose concrete.”
The MTA is in the middle of a $236.5 million superstorm Sandy-related rehabilitation of the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The 76-year-old structure was badly damaged by the storm; 40% of the length of the tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of corrosive saltwater. The project was funded through federal government grant money.
“Not a single person has been injured by any falling tiles because no tiles are falling — they are being replaced by workers as part of an infrastructure project to repair the tunnel from Hurricane Sandy damage,” said Beth DeFalco, an MTA spokeswoman, in an email.
A spokesman for the Port Authority, which operates the Lincoln Tunnel, said in a statement that “the tile structures in the various Lincoln Tunnel tubes are intact, regularly inspected and pose no danger to the public. In the last 12 months there have been no reported incidents involving falling tiles.”
Transit experts in the city are waiting to see what a Trump presidency will mean for infrastructure — specifically mass transit. Some officials are confident that the administration will prioritize a Second Avenue subway expansion.
Trump didn’t offer more details on his plans, though he did pledge to make a “big statement” on repairing roads and bridges during his Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress.
“We spend $6 trillion in the Middle East and we have potholes all over our highways and our roads,” said Trump at the meeting.
Experts believe storms like Sandy will occur more often in the future due to global warming, an issue Trump has yet to embrace.
Asked later in the day whether the president had a specific incident in mind when he mentioned the potentially dangerous state of the tunnels, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he would ask and joked that Secret Service would alleviate any concerns.