Senator Craig M. Johnson Calls On Mta To Drop Third Track From Its Five-year Capital Plan

Craig M. Johnson

April 07, 2008

Senator Craig M. Johnson sent the following letter was sent to MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander.

Elliot G. Sander – Executive Director and CEO
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3739


Dear Mr. Sander,

I'm alarmed by a recent media report that the MTA is considering raising fares, again, in the event that Mayor Bloomberg's congestion tax plan fails to win approval in Albany.

Though this report had not been verified by MTA officials, I would be remiss if I did not speak up against the prospect of having a second fare hike in less than a year– this increase to purportedly fund the MTA's Five-Year Capital Plan.

Instead of finding ways to pay for this plan, it would be beneficial to take a second look at this proposal with an eye toward making it more affordable.

There is one recommendation I can make right now that would save the MTA $1.3 billion: Drop the Third Track Expansion.

As I have repeatedly stressed, in both public settings, and in meetings with you and other MTA officials: Third Track has the potential to have a real negative impact on the residents of my district. I also have real questions about this project's value to the region's overall rail transportation system.

Over the years there have been a myriad of explanations and justifications for this project. First, it was supposed to be for expanded freight capacity; then it was to facilitate reverse commuters; then it was for East Side access. Now, the Third Track, even though it will neither begin, nor end in a multi-modal transportation hub, is supposed to be a "passing lane" for direct trains.

By the time this letter reaches you, there may be yet another explanation from the MTA as to why this project is needed.

While the Third Track's justification seems to continuously be in flux, the deep concerns from Main Line communities about the devastating impact this project could have on its neighborhoods have been there since the beginning.

And, in my opinion, the MTA has done little to address these concerns.

Make no mistake about it: We are at the brink of a recession. Property taxes continue to skyrocket, and people are leaving this state in droves in search of the economic opportunities that a generation ago were in our own back yards.

I know your agency has not been oblivious to the current climate. As a matter of fact, the weakening economy was the reason cited for the MTA's recent decision to defer a series of transportation upgrades that were promised to be funded by the last fare increase.

New Yorkers simply cannot afford the added hardship of another fare increase, and it is simply unfair to ask the residents of the Main Line Corridor to shoulder the burden of hosting the Third Track.

Given these realities, I am asking you to discontinue plans for the Third Track Expansion Project.

As always, I am available to discuss this, or any other issue that would impact the residents of the 7th Senate District. My office can be reached at 516.746.5923.


Craig M. Johnson
Senator, 7th District


Cc – Gov. David A. Paterson
H. Dale Hemmerdinger, Chairman, MTA
Helena Williams, President, Long Island Railroad