The cash-strapped MTA could expand subway service into the “transit desert” of southeast Brooklyn if President Biden and the Democratic-led Congress pass a multi-trillion dollar “Build it Back” infrastructure program, Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
“There’s some talk that if we get the $4 trillion we can build a subway line to southeast Brooklyn, which is a subway desert,” Schumer told the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce during a Zoom talk on Friday.
City leaders have tossed around the idea for over a century to extend the subway down Utica Avenue to serve the train-less corner of southeast Brooklyn including East Flatbush, Flatlands and Marine Park.
Most recently, de Blasio pushed for a study of the concept, along with bus rapid transit and light rail. The MTA began holding public meetings for the study in 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has not put out any info since April.
But with Schumer taking the reins as Senate majority leader, transit advocates are optimistic about an influx of federal cash to help address New York’s costly transit challenges.
“Sen. Schumer is right that this year is an opportunity for dramatic positive change,” Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said. “Now is the time for New Yorkers to make these types of demands, and say that after decades of defeat at the hands of the highway lobby, that it’s time to take transit and transit riders seriously.”
Utica Avenue is currently served by the MTA’s B46 bus. The jam-packed route carried 44,000 daily riders pre-pandemic — making it the busiest bus in Brooklyn and third-busiest in the city.
The MTA’s most recent subway extension on Manhattan’s Second Avenue clocked in as the most expensive subway per-mile in world history.
Ben Fried, of the think-tank TransitCenter, said the Utica subway “should be at the top of any subway expansion list,” but cautioned the MTA against deprioritizing maintenance of the existing system.
“There’s a huge need to make subway stations accessible and upgrade signals and switches to operate reliably. On top of all that, there’s a lot of long-term uncertainty about the MTA’s operating budget,” Fried said in an email to The Post.
“We need to make sure that we use federal funds in a way that shores up the agency’s ability to provide service — avoiding excessive debt, controlling capital costs, and preventing a repeat of boondoggles like East Side Access.”
Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have suggested they may pursue a $2 trillion “green” infrastructure plan to help revive the country’s economy.
An MTA spokesman said its study of the Utica Avenue corridor will recommend projects for the MTA’s next capital plan, which is scheduled to start in 2025. The current $51.5 billion capital program is already underway.
“We’re grateful to Majority Leader Schumer for securing billions of dollars in federal funding to help save the MTA’s basic services during this pandemic,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said in a statement.
“This study looks at different transit improvement concepts using various modes and will be evaluated along with other major regional transit expansion projects as we build the next capital program.”