With the groundbreaking of the Second Avenue subway weeks off, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff is sounding alarm bells about how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will pay for the project.
"It will be the third groundbreaking for the same project. It sounds like the Freedom Tower," Mr. Doctoroff told a gathering of about 400 transportation professionals at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council's annual meeting yesterday, referring to the ground zero memorial that has celebrated multiple groundbreakings but has seen little work thereafter. "We've seen how these things play out before."
The Second Avenue line, known as the city's greatest transportation project never built, is a planned two-track subway line that will run along Manhattan's East Side to the financial district from 125th street. Construction on such a line stopped in 1975, when funds for the project ran dry.
"We can't afford that mistake again," Mr. Doctoroff said. He stressed that even the expected federal funding for the project "does not mean a commitment to completing the job."
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat who heads an MTA oversight committee, said Mr. Doctoroff may have spoken with the city's own financial interests in mind. "The city's reluctance to fully fund the no. 7 line is always lurking in the background of these kinds of conversations," he said.
The city has committed $2.1 billion to fund the extension of the no. 7 train line, but neither the MTA nor the city so far is willing to pay for the project's possible cost overruns. If the MTA encounters financial problems during its construction of the Second Avenue subway line, it could affect the future of the no. 7 extension.
"The money has to come from somewhere; we may not end up with what we want," Mr. Doctoroff said, pointing to the MTA's strained capital budget. The agency faces growing deficits over the next three years: $800 million in 2008, $1.4 billion in 2009, and $1.8 billion in 2010.
The MTA's chief executive officer, Elliot Sander, has said that the agency may try to save money by splitting the project into small pieces, allowing more contractors to bid.
"There are clearly hurdles to be cleared to complete the full build of Second Avenue," an MTA spokesman, Jeremy Soffin, said. "We welcome the city's interest in finding funding solutions for our ongoing infrastructure needs."
Mayor Bloomberg plans to release specific proposed solutions to the city 's transportation growth problems next month.