Why Hell’s Kitchen Subway Station Was Never Built

| 28 Aug 2022 | 05:20

Regarding calls for a Hell’s Kitchen subway station, what the public, transit riders, transit advocacy groups, transit reporters and current generation of public officials are unaware of is MTA’s senior management decision when the project was in the planning stage several years prior to 2007. They instructed staff deliberately not to follow the federal National Environmental Protection Act process. This was one of many requirements necessary to enter the Federal Transit Administration’s national competitive discretionary Capital Investment Grant (CIG) New Starts Core Capacity program.

The MTA did not want to go after FTA CIG funding for this project. This would have had the project compete against both the $11.2 billion Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal (now known as Grand Central Madison) and $4.5 billion New York City Transit Phase One Second Avenue Subway projects for FTA CIG New Starts funding. The MTA provided no financial assistance and insisted NYC pay for virtually all of the project costs.

The MTA could have leveraged the $2.4 billion in locally committed funding to apply for up to $500 million in FTA CIG New Starts funding. Using $2.4 billion as local share would have demonstrated local commitment, financial capacity and significant over match for justification of these additional dollars from Washington. These funds could have convinced the Federal Transit Administration to provide $500 million under a FTA CIG Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) that would have paid for the deleted station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.

The MTA would need a new procurement and third party contractor to build the station. NYC Transit will have to spend millions providing their own employee Force Account to support the construction contractor. They will be needed to provide flagging support, which insures the safety of private contractor employees who will have to work adjacent to active subway tracks. The new contractor will also require a staging area for supplies and other support equipment. The previous contractor already had a staging area for supplies, support equipment and employees already mobilized to do the work.

Twenty years later, the estimated cost is now closer to $1 billion dollars to build the new #7 subway station at 10th Avenue & 41st Street. Work will have to be coordinated with the Port Authority $10 billion new 42nd Street midtown bus terminal. There is no funding in the $51 billion MTA 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Plan for this project. The next opportunity for funding would be under the upcoming MTA 2025 - 2029 Five Year Capital Plan. Even if funding was approved under this plan, you would still need to complete design and engineering followed by construction.

The MTA recently announced that they were looking into the feasibility of including this along with many other projects whose costs are each in the billions to be included in the upcoming MTA 2025 - 2044 Twenty Year Capital Needs Plan. This document is promised to be released by March 2023. Transportation history tells us that it was a terrible decision on the part of both City Hall and MTA twenty years ago to not find the necessary funding for construction. The price tag will now double and Hell’s Kitchen residents will have to wait many more years before boarding at this long overdue station.

Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.