The Biden administration is set to award a $3.4 billion grant to New York to extend the Second Avenue Subway up to 125th Street, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat announced on Tuesday.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant will fund a little less than half of the cost of Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway project. The grant, funded by the 2021 federal infrastructure bill, is the largest in the history of the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program, which provides money for transit capital projects.
Phase 2 will bring Q train service up to East Harlem, a densely populated neighborhood long lacking in mass transit options.
“This grant is significant not only in its size, but also in where it’s going,” Schumer said in a statement. “The funds will be used to build public transit in a neighborhood that has been neglected for far too long.”
The grant was first reported Tuesday by the New York Daily News.
Transit officials say construction on the long-stewing project will finally get underway by the end of this year, and the MTA has already begun the costly process of acquiring East Side property necessary for the construction of subway stations, ventilation, and power facilities, as well as staging areas to get huge tunnel boring machines underground. Once construction is underway, the MTA estimates completion within 7-to-8 years.
After more than 80 years and numerous false starts, Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway finally opened to great fanfare in 2017, extending the Q train up to 96th Street on the Upper East Side.
On a per-mile basis, Phase 1 was one of the most expensive transit infrastructure projects in world history, ultimately costing $4.6 billion for 1.8 miles of new rail.
Phase 2 is set to be even costlier: the MTA pegs the cost of the 1.5-mile extension to 125th Street and Lexington Avenue — where the Q will connect to the 4/5/6 line — at $7.7 billion, including the cost of servicing debt. That’s despite the fact that much of the stretch will utilize an existing tunnel under Second Avenue, between 110th and 120th streets, built in the 1970s as part of an effort to complete the project. The efforts were abandoned amid the city’s brush with bankruptcy that decade.
Planners have long envisioned the Second Avenue Subway bringing service all the way down the east side, extending south down Second Avenue from Harlem all the way to Hanover Square in the Financial District.
But in its recent 20-year needs assessment, transit officials broached a different, largely unconsidered possibility: extending the Q west along 125th Street, connecting to various other lines and enabling new transfers for riders heading to and from upper Manhattan and the Bronx.
Spokespersons for Gov. Kathy Hochul did not immediately return requests for comment. The MTA declined to comment.
The grant proposal will now be sent to Congress for two weeks of review.