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Op-ed | Making progress on two big subway projects in Manhattan

The first night of FASTRACK on the Lexington 4/5/6 lines got underway late in the evening on Mon., August 10, 2020, including a major switch replacement north of 14 St-Union Sq. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

BY SARAH E. FEINBERG

It goes without saying the last few months have been among the most challenging in MTA history. The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the MTA and New York City Transit – affecting every facet of our agency, from our heroic workforce to our finances. 

But even during this unprecedented crisis, our team, working closely with our incredible partners at MTA Construction and Development, has done an incredible job in continuing to maintain, repair, and improve our system for riders. I want New Yorkers to know that even in this dark moment, we’re committed to driving progress to the furthest extent possible.

This week, we’re on track to finish two exciting projects that will help make our system better: a slate of track work on the 4, 5, and 6 lines and additional station entrance upgrades at Grand Central Terminal.

While replacing track switches on the 4, 5, and 6 lines that were more than 20 years old, crews took advantage of overnight closures to complete some resiliency projects on the Eastern Parkway section of the 4 and 5 lines, including water damage repair and prevention, concrete and rebar restoration, and the relocation of light fixtures. These improvements, delivered on time, will go a long way toward improving reliability, reducing delays, and giving us some much-needed operational flexibility.

At Grand Central, we replaced two escalators, an elevator and an adjacent stairway leading to the mezzanine of the subway station – which is one of the busiest entry points in our entire system. These upgrades, which will be open to the public starting today, are part of the larger 42nd Street Connection Project, which will modernize the entire 42nd Street corridor. Best of all, MTA C&D completed the project seven months ahead of its initial schedule.

And just a few weeks ago, we marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, opening four new ADA accessible stations: Astoria Blvd in Queens (N,W), 86th Street in Brooklyn (R), 1st Avenue in Manhattan (L) and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn (L). I’m so proud that this important work has continued through the pandemic. Every New Yorker should be able to use our system – full stop – regardless of their mobility.

We’re not there yet, but before COVID-19 hit, Transit was set to make its largest-ever investment in accessibility as part of the historic 2020-2024 Capital Program.

The harsh reality now is that in order for more of these critical construction projects to move ahead on time, we need the federal government to direct additional funding to the MTA. As we said at our Board meeting last week, we are in dire straits. Without emergency aid, we’re barreling toward the edge of a fiscal cliff with no parachute.

The massive $16 billion deficit we face in the coming years due to COVID-19 is an existential threat to mass transit in New York. If we can’t fill this gap, we will lose our ability to build a more modern, 21st-century transit system.

You, our customers, deserve a better system, and so do our dedicated employees. We look forward to partnering with the federal government in any way we can to achieve it.

Sarah Feinberg is the interim MTA New York City Transit President.

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