Fingers Crossed: Stimulus Money May Stimulate Moynihan Station!

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Investing in our mass transportation infrastructure: this is a key, key function of government, and one that ours has ignored for way too long.  This is why one of the two key rail hub in New York is the nasty maze underneath Madison Square Garden known as Penn Station.

But hope is on the horizon!  The forever-stalled project to turn the old Farley Post Office into a real live honest-to-goodness train station may actually happen, thanks to the injection of stimulus funds for the first phase of the project.  At right is a pic of an atrium planned in a Moynihan Station concept.  Sunlight and trains! In the same place! Amazing!

Stuff like this is a perfect demonstration of good economic stimulus in action – instead of budget-busting tax breaks that may or may not actually cause businesses to hire more people, make more stuff, or do anything else particularly useful for getting the economy back on track, this money can go directly to employing people (yay!) who will be working on laying the groundwork for increased economic activity (in this case, better rail access).

Bottom line, infrastructure spending is investing in America, essentially.

Then again, even with the allocation of the stimulus funds, the future of the Moynihan Station project isn’t certain.  From the Observer:

All is not to say that a shiny new train hall is about to become a reality. With the project always collapsing under its own ambition, the state and Port Authority in 2009 restructured it into “bite-size chunks,” in the words of one official, and the stimulus money is going toward just the first phase, $267 million in infrastructure work that would build new entrances along Eighth Avenue and expand an underground concourse on the western end of Penn Station’s platforms.

Taken in isolation, this first phase does not seem a project worth the significant money being devoted to it, and now the concern becomes whether the second phase will indeed ever happen. Private developers the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust-a partnership between which once planned a far grander scheme that involved moving Madison Square Garden-still say they are interested, and Amtrak has signed an agreement to move to the Farley Building, should a train hall be built.

But the history of the project dictates this will never be as easy a task as it seems. The question with the potential start of construction within months is whether or not Moynihan has actually turned a corner.

More on this from City Room.