The MTA official in charge of big projects like the Second Avenue Subway said construction probably could have been started earlier in East Harlem if the capital plan hadn't been so delayed this year.

"We'll do whatever needs to be done to speed up the second phase," said Michael Horodniceanu, president of capital construction.

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast asked Mayor Bill de Blasio this year to give the MTA $1 billion for the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, which will bring it from the Upper East Side to East Harlem. The city agreed to give the MTA a total of $2.5 billion for its capital plan, but the MTA moved the construction back last week and slashed $1 billion for the project.

Officials said they didn't expect tunneling in East Harlem to begin until after 2019, because of how long it would take to do the design and environmental review process.

"We have committed that if we can speed up the schedule to begin tunneling the East Harlem phase sooner, we will pursue a Capital Program amendment to do so," said Prendergast in a statement. "Governor Cuomo has made clear that he would like us to accelerate work on the Second Avenue Subway, and we are actively looking for ways to deliver the project faster."

When asked last week about the changes to the Second Avenue Subway's funding, Mayor de Blasio said he was proud of the city's contribution and that "a lot of change is going to happen for our straphangers."

On Tuesday, following anger from local officials about the change in timetable, he said "we were all surprised to hear some of the changes around the Second Avenue Subway." He then praised the MTA chairman on Wednesday for agreeing to look at the situation again, and called it a "smart move."

The MTA's $29 billion capital plan, which runs from 2015 to 2019, wasn't approved by its board until late October.

The plan still has to be reviewed by a state board.