New York, NY—New York City is poised for greater mass transit and infrastructure funding, that’s according to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer.
The Majority Leader participated in a video call organized by several public transportation advocacy organizations such as The Riders Alliance, Regional Plan Association and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, among others.
As we’ve previously reported, a major project that has been in the lurch is the Gateway Tunnel Project, which calls for two new double-tracked rail tunnels underneath the Hudson River. There’s a chance it may get the funding this year.
“Just last week I met with our Secretary of Transportation-designate Pete Buttigieg, and we talked about all kinds of priorities for New York—first, moving Gateway forward. We have $12 billion sitting there and I’m sure the Biden administration…. We’re working with them to unleash it,” said Schumer.
He then mentioned that despite 2020 being a horrible year, it ended on three good notes—Trump’s election loss, the availability of a vaccine and the Covid relief bill which had a lot for transit, including $1 billion for Amtrak, $1.25 billion for NJTransit and $500 million for JFK and LaGaurdia Airports.
To date, the MTA has received $8 billion in coronavirus relief funding, which also allowed for the MTA and the Port Authority of NY&NJ to borrow money from the Federal Reserve to further shore up their finances.
“It was hard to get this into the bill folks because so many people don’t understand how mass transit affects the whole country, how it is the future, how it’s clean and how it’s green,” Schumer said.
He’s working on the next relief package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which has about $20 billion for mass transit nationwide. He had hoped there would have been a greater amount for mass transit, but nonetheless he expects the MTA to get a big chunk. He’s also hoping that it passes within the next month, thanks to the Democrats now controlling all three branches of government.
“It’ll be easier…. Will it be easier in the Senate, no, because we still only have 50 votes, but it’ll be a lot easier because I can determine what’s put on the floor, not [Mitch] McConnell,” Schumer said.
Schumer then took questions from a couple of the transportation advocacy organizations. Danny Harris of Transportation Alternatives noted that right now mass transit receives only 20 percent of all federal transportation funding, while highways get 80 percent, an inequity that has existed since 1982.
“In this year’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization, it’s time to finally put transit riders on equal footing with those who drive. What can we do to help you achieve an equal balance of federal funding transport dollars between highways and transit?” asked Harris of Schumer.
Schumer said that he will be introducing an infrastructure/recovery package that focuses on transit and other climate-friendly modes. For years the Democrats have pushed for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. But he also said there needs to be a national movement demanding more money for transit.
“You guys have done an amazing job in New York. If you could sort of expand and get other cities that don’t have the kind of support infrastructure like here in New York, that would be helpful, and I’ll help you in any way that I can,” Schumer said.