In 1968, in the middle of Nelson Rockefeller’s third term as governor of New York, the first chairman of the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority, William Ronan, approached Rockefeller with an idea about building access to the East Side of Manhattan for the Long Island Rail Road. Now, more than 50 years later, that massive project is finally nearing the finish line.
Today, it’s not Rockefeller but Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushing for the project’s completion. “We’re going to finish this if I have to go down there with a shovel myself. We are going to get this done, so help me God,” Cuomo said of the East Side Access project in April.
Some transportation policy experts are hopeful that the project will actually be finished within the new budget and by the new deadline, even if they’re not 100% willing to place bets it’ll actually happen. “I think there’s a much stronger level of commitment on the part of the MTA. I do think that they’ve addressed some of the issues that have plagued it before,” said Chris Jones, senior vice president and chief planner at the Regional Plan Association, a local research organization. Jones was sure to note, however, that the project is incredibly complicated and has a bad track record. “I would put myself in the cautiously optimistic camp. But certainly no guarantee,” he said.
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