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Governor Cuomo pushes for Gateway Tunnel Project funding in Washington after tunnel tour

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Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes video images of the decaying, century-old rail tunnel under the Hudson River will help resolve a funding impasse with President Donald Trump’s administration that has delayed construction of a new $13 billion tube considered crucial to the region’s transportation system.

Cuomo toured the transit tunnel Wednesday night, taking video he says will be shown to Trump in an effort to secure money for the Gateway Tunnel Project. The governor is calling on Trump and Washington to stop playing politics and fund their share of the repairs, which could help ease transit troubles across the Tri-State area.

As water dripped down the leaky tunnel’s walls, forming puddles, the cameras captured disintegrating and missing concrete panels, corroding rebar and broken electrical cables. When it gets cold enough, icicles grow from the ceiling. Chunks of concrete can break off and fall onto the tracks below or threaten the cable running along the top.

“I actually think if anything is going to convince the president, seeing is believing,” Cuomo said. “He actually has a construction background and I think if he sees the level of damage and he sees what we’re talking about, eroding steel, falling concrete, that he’ll see it in a different context, that it will strip away the politics and the rhetoric and the jockeying.”

The two-tube tunnel, which serves as the only rail connection between New York City and New Jersey, suffered saltwater damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that is eating away at walls housing copper cables and electrical wires. Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, has estimated one or both of the tunnel tubes could fail in the next 10 to 15 years.

During Sandy, both tubes in the North River Tunnel were inundated with seawater, causing falling concrete, corroded electrical cabling and standing water damage. The damage has been compounded by the tunnel’s age and the intensity of its current use.

New York and New Jersey have committed to pay for half the cost of building a new tunnel using federal loans, with New Jersey proposing to pay back its share with fare increases and New York proposing to allocate money annually from its state budget over 35 years. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has committed roughly $2 billion.

Half of the funding for the Gateway Tunnel was promised under the Obama administration, but Trump administration officials have rejected the 50-50 agreement that would have the federal government pay for the other half, calling it “nonexistent.”

Cuomo says the current conditions could lead to major regional issues for the 450 trains and the passengers who use it every day.

“You have a level of damage that is possible to interrupt service for days,” he said. “And if you lose service of one of these tunnels for one, two, or three days, you’re talking about a devastating impact on the whole Northeast Corridor.”

Taking one of the tubes out of service for an extended time would reduce peak period traffic by 75 percent, experts have said. That would have a ripple effect up and down the Washington-to-Boston corridor on which more than 700,000 people ride daily on Amtrak and several commuter lines, Amtrak has estimated.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told a House committee in March that Trump was seeking to kill the tunnel project unless the states committed more money. And the Federal Transit Administration has downgraded the project’s rating from medium-high to medium-low, making it more difficult to compete with other projects around the country seeking federal dollars.

Last month, two commuter trains were disabled on a Friday night, stranding more than 1,000 travelers, when a piece of metal that connects the train to the overhead wires pierced the roof of one of the train cars. No injuries were reported.

“What’s really going on inside the tunnels is a toxic stew of sandy saltwater, of normal water intrusion, of the metal corrosion that’s going on, and of the aging process of the cement,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton, who joined Wednesday’s tour.

Even once the funding is secured, it would take seven to eight years to complete the project. That is why Cuomo says time is of the essence, and he hopes the president will look beyond politics.

Source: https://abc7ny.com/traffic/cuomo-pushes-for-gateway-tunnel-project-funding-in-dc/4508667/

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Three separate homicides across city this weekend under investigation

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The weekend was especially busy for homicide detectives across the city as three people were killed since Thursday night in separate murders, police said.

Police were also seeking a possible wounded person from a shooting on a Brooklyn train Saturday night.

The violence began Thursday, Nov. 14 at about 9:05 p.m. when police from the 34th Precinct responded to a 911 call of shots fire in the vicinity of Sherman Avenue and Thayer Street in the Bronx.

Upon arriving at the scene, law enforcement sources said, officers were told about a 20-year-old man who had arrived at New York Presbyterian Hospital, via private means, with gunshot wounds to the legs.

The victim, identified as Luis Dela Cruz, of 36 Arden Avenue, was subsequently pronounced deceased at the hospital. There are no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing.

On Friday, Nov. 15, at about 9:15 p.m., 17-year-old Talasia Cuffie of Vernon Boulevard in Long island City, Queens, was found stabbed in the chest multiple times along 166th Street in South Jamaica. Paramedics rushed her to Jamaica Hospital. where she was pronounced dead.

Sources said Cuffie was stabbed only hours after attending a memorial for her friend, Aamir Griffin, 14, who was shot to death on by a stray bullet 21 days earlier.

Hours later, at about 3:44 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, police in Brooklyn responded to a 911 call of male shot in front of the Lafayette Garden Houses, a NYCHA development. Officers found a 34-year-old man shot multiple times in the chest. EMS rushed him to Brooklyn Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The victim has not yet been identified, and no arrests have been made.

Shooting aboard train

Meanwhile, cops are also investigating a reported shooting on board the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn Saturday evening.

Police say a group became embroiled in a dispute either aboard or on the platform of the Franklin Avenue shuttle as it sat in the station at Prospect Park and Flatbush Avenue Saturday night at about 8:40 p.m. Police were checking hospitals in the borough for possible person shot, but could not confirm that anyone was hit.

A transit worker inside a maintenance room at the station said he heard a large group of teens running from the station, but he didn’t hear the shots. Police were holding the motorman after the shooting for questioning.

The suspect was described as male black, 5’9″ with a dark hoodie.

The shuttle was shut down for the duration of the investigation as evidence collection units collected spent shells and a bullet that may have been lodged in a wall of the train.

Source https: www.amny.com

By  Todd Maisel

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Advocates: MTA Board Must Get Moving On Congestion Pricing Details

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In less than one year, the state-mandated Traffic Mobility Review Board can issue its nuts-and-bolts recommendations for how congestion pricing is supposed to work, what it will cost, and who will get much-desired exemptions from the toll.

Of course, there’s a few things that need to happen first — primarily Mayor de Blasio and the MTA Board have to actually appoint members to this obscure board, get it an office so it can start the work of setting those tolls and exemptions, and start holding meetings (which are supposed to be public, but might not be!).

On Friday, a coalition of 20 good government and transit advocacy groups including Reinvent Albany, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Council, the Citizens Budget Commission and the Straphangers Campaign fired the first warning shot, with a letter reminding the politicians who passed the tolling scheme earlier this year that the hard work of actually designing and then implementing congestion pricing still needs to be done before it supposed to (magically!) begin in January, 2021.

The Traffic Mobility Review Board is supposed to comprise one chairperson and five members: one appointed by Mayor de Blasio and the rest appointed by the MTA Board/Gov. Cuomo, though two members must be from the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North service areas.

Asked if the MTA Board had held any discussions about the board and who will be appointed to it, de Blasio’s MTA Board appointee Veronica Vanterpool told Streetsblog it had not. Noting that she felt it could wait until after December’s decision on the 2020 MTA budget, Vanterpool still urged the Board to prioritize the TMRB going forward.

“All eyes are on NYC for this rollout, so we shouldn’t squander time,” Vanterpool said. “January, 2021 is around the corner.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo referred Streetsblog to the MTA, and a spokesperson for de Blasio did not respond to a request for comment on potential board appointees.

Nov. 15 was an auspicious date for the good-governance groups to send the letter, because Nov. 15, 2020 is the date when the TMRB can release its recommendations, per the congestion pricing agreement that the state legislature passed this year (observers have pointed out releasing the recommendations on Nov. 15 allowed legislators to avoid any potential consequences in the 2020 election, which is a week earlier).

If those recommendations are approved by the Triborough Bridges & Tunnel Authority, the MTA can start collecting the congestion toll fee as soon as Jan. 1, 2021, although there’s no requirement that the tolling begin that soon (clearly, there is a huge potential for delay). Although the TMRB has not yet been appointed, the MTA has at least selected a vendor to design and operate the tolling infrastructure once the fee is instituted.

With no TMRB holding meetings, there’s no way to know what congestion pricing will look like or even what the price might be. For now, thanks to state lawmakers carving out exemptions, we know that emergency vehicles, vehicles transporting disabled people and drivers passing through the congestion toll zone on the FDR Drive or West Side Highway will be exempt from the fee. In addition, CBD residents making less than $60,000 per year will get a tax credit equal to what they spend on the tolls each year, and an exception is being worked out for drivers who have to move their cars in and out of the CBD border because of alternate-side parking.

Other than that though, the public is only left to speculate. At Tuesday’s state legislative hearing on the MTA’s historic $51.5-billion 2020-2024 capital plan, MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye promised that before the tolls and exemptions are set, there would be pointless kvetching sessions robust public hearings with the TMRB so that MTA Board members could be properly informed.

In September, the Regional Plan Association issued a series of suggestions as to how the congestion toll could be set. The plan that seemed to do the most good, in terms of raising money and reducing congestion during peak hours, was a fee of $9.18 to enter the CBD during the morning rush and the same fee exit it during the evening peak. That charge would raise $1.06 billion and increase traffic speeds in the Manhattan core by 15.6 percent.

The TMRB’s decisions will have enormous consequences for the success of the congestion pricing program, and for the MTA’s historic capital plan. The MTA is banking on raising $1 billion per year with the congestion fee, which they can then turn into $15 billion in bonds for the agency’s capital spending. In addition to setting the tolls and exemptions, the TMRB is also supposed to review the 2020-2024 capital plan at some point, which makes actually appointing its members somewhat urgent since next year is…let’s see here…2020.

 

Source  nyc.streetsblog.org

By Dave Colon

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Contract talks break down between TWU, MTA

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TWU, MTA

NEW YORK (WABC) — Talks between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the MTA have broken down after both sides have been meeting for the last three days, officials say.

The transit union president claims that the MTA contract demands have “only made the already tense situation worse.”

The union released a statement Thursday evening about MTA Chairman Pat Foye.

“These two days of bargaining have actually set us back,” union president Tony Utano said. “Foye presented us with a new set of demands today that are substantially worse than the insulting package he threw across the table three months ago. Foye not only appears unwilling to negotiate in good faith, he is intentionally spoiling for a confrontation.”

No new talks are scheduled.

The main issues are wages, pension and health benefits, but it all comes amid rising tensions at the MTA and accusations of widespread overtime abuse.

On October 30, members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 rallied outside MTA headquarters, from bus drivers and subway operators to station cleaners and track inspectors. All of them, working without a contract for nearly six months.

MTA officials claimed they have been bargaining in good faith. But unionized workers from the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North are also working without contracts.

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