For the first time in recent history, infrastructure is at the forefront of the conversation in New York. Our mass transit system continues to struggle, our bridges and road network is operating well over capacity, and the delay of the Gateway project puts our entire transportation network and economy at risk.
The Gateway Program, which fully restores the two existing rail tubes between New York and New Jersey and constructs two new tunnels, is not only the most important project in the state, but it is the most critical piece of infrastructure in the country. The existing tunnels are ready to collapse due to old age and the significant damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy. If they fail, it will cripple the northeast corridor and severely disrupt 52 million residents in the region, who produce over $3 trillion in economic output and support 20 percent of all U.S. jobs.
But if completed—and combined with expanded capacity at New York’s Penn Station—Gateway would transform the daily commute of hundreds of thousands of people and provide access to new jobs, industries and economic opportunities. Gateway would also create 72,000 direct jobs over the next 11 years in New York and New Jersey alone.
In the spring, the Building Congress will lead a delegation of industry executives to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal leaders on infrastructure and stress the importance of the Gateway project. Ifs, ands or buts are not an option—Gateway must be built now!
At the state level, Gov. Cuomo has made major infrastructure investment a central part of his administration, focusing on several key agencies and projects. A priority must be safeguarding funding and advancing the implementation of the MTA’s $29 billion, five-year capital plan and New York State DOT’s $22 billion, five-year capital plan. We must also move forward with transformative projects, including Phases II and III of the Second Avenue Subway, the redevelopment of JFK and the LaGuardia air train.
In New York City, it is vital that we plan for the future and begin developing projects that will dramatically improve mobility, economic opportunity and quality of life for all residents. Along with inventive transportation proposals, like Mayor de Blasio’s Brooklyn-Queens Connector, the city must make investments in new schools, libraries, hospitals and cultural institutions to keep up with our continually growing population.
The Building Congress has also begun working with local stakeholders and industry experts to define neighborhoods, industries and infrastructure needs that have been overlooked and make recommendations for investment, such as tunneling the Gowanus Expressway and opening up the Brooklyn waterfront to incredible development opportunities. And if we’re going to build all of these amazing projects, it is essential that we’re able to use alternative methods, like design-build and public-private partnerships.
New York has always been an example for cities across the world, and while our infrastructure has failed to live up to our standards recently, with ingenuity and proper investment, we can lead the way once again.
Carlo A. Scissura is the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress.