Second Avenue Subway rolls into next federal grant phase: Hochul

An unused subway tunnel below Second Avenue near East 112th Street.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Federal Transportation officials have moved the Second Avenue Subway extension into the next phase of a federal grant program, Governor Kathy Hochul said in a Thursday announcement on social media after speaking with US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“The Second Avenue Subway project is moving down the tracks! Just spoke with @SecretaryPete, who shared the good news that the project is moving into the engineering phase,” Hochul wrote on Twitter on Jan. 6. “Look forward to working with @MTA to deliver for the residents of East Harlem.”

The $6.3 billion scheme to extend the Q line 1.5 miles north to 125th Street has been stalled for years, but Hochul vowed to complete the transit project before she leaves office during a November tour of the abandoned tunnels built during the 1960s.

The project would add three stops north of the Q train’s current 96th Street, at 106th Street, 116th Street and 125th Street, with the latter connecting to the Lexington Avenue line carrying the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 trains and providing a close transfer to the nearby Metro-North Railroad stop.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority finished an environmental evaluation for the project in late 2018, but the proposal shrieked to a halt after that, with state officials blaming the President Donald Trump administration.

MTA in 2019 requested the feds foot the bill for $3.4 billion of the costs, up from a previous $2 billion ask, but that has not moved since President Joe Biden took office, the New York Daily News reported, and US DOT in a May 2021 brief ignored the higher figure.

MTA is applying for a so-called New Starts grant from the Federal Transit Authority, and as part of the upcoming phase the state-controlled transit agency must secure commitments for the non-federal funding, and can start work on engineering, and procuring materials and equipment, according to agency officials.

That’s the last step before the FTA signs off on the grant and transit officials can start construction.

One transit advocate lauded Hochul’s announcement but stressed that getting the big bucks from Washington will be key. 

“It’s terrific, it’s great news,” said Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, which advises MTA on behalf of riders.

“The big factor is who’s going to sign the check and when’s the check going to get signed,” Daglian added.