Hard to Believe, but Moynihan a Go

After years of "will it? or won't it?," it appears this week that Moynihan Station will, in fact, happen. While we're still a long way from the entire state-of-the-art-light-filled-Amtrak-train-hall-in-Farley project, the stars have finally aligned for initial transportation improvements that will begin to turn the Farley Post Office into a rail station.

On Tuesday, Moynihan Station was awarded an $83 million federal grant to complete the budget for a $250 million first phase that includes providing two new entrances to the station through the corners of the Post Office building, doubling the length and width of the West End Concourse (mostly used by LIRR) so it provides access to more platforms, adding 13 new sets of escalators/elevators/stairs down to the platforms, as well as other less sexy but equally important infrastructure upgrades (ventilation, catenary, etc.).

The new glass-domed train hall that New Yorkers have been promised for years will be built as part of Phase Two, and will cost more than $1 billion. Funding for that phase has yet to be identified, other than the fact that the site comes with two million square feet of development rights. But Phase One is a necessary pre-requisite to Phase Two, and even if Phase Two is postponed, the improvements part of Phase One will have immediate and tangible benefits. For one, commuters will be able to exit the platforms and the station west of Eighth Avenue, avoiding Penn Station altogether and relieving congestion there.

And then on Wednesday, Gov. David Paterson announced that New York State and Amtrak had signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the terms of agreement under which Amtrak will move to Farley once the actual station is built. Paterson also officially charged his Empire State Development Corporation as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with seeing the project through. This will involve coordinating the multiple agencies involved, negotiating a final agreement with Amtrak, and seeking out federal funding. Since the Port Authority is a bi-state agency, Gov. Christie and the Port's board will also have to agree to take on the project.

The money's lined up, the MOU with Amtrak is signed, environmental approvals are in their final stages, and design plans are nearly complete. I'm afraid to say it out loud, but construction might actually begin by the end of the year.