New York to expedite $3bn project through P3

The state will use an ‘unprecedented’ P3 to fast-track the modernisation of Penn Station in a bid to complete the project in three years.

Just two months after the announcement that the $20 billion Gateway Project was finally kicking into gear, another large-scale project in the US Northeast seems likely to begin construction this fall.

The Empire Station Complex involves an overhaul of Pennsylvania (Penn) Station, the busiest train station in North America, as well as redeveloping the James A Farley Post Office, located on 8th Avenue across from the station. According to a statement issued by the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the post office will be redeveloped into a “state-of-the-art train hall” for Amtrak, the national passenger rail company that operates in and out of Penn Station. This is expected to increase the station’s size by 50 percent.

Penn Station’s redevelopment will involve widening existing corridors, improving connectivity between the lower levels and street level, reducing congestion and upgrading the retail offerings and passenger amenities throughout the station.

“Several design alternatives will be considered, including major exterior renovations involving 33rd street, 7th Avenue, 8th Avenue and/or Madison Square Garden,” which sits above the station, according to the Governor’s press release.

The existing Penn Station, which replaced the original 1910 facility when it was demolished in 1963, is designed to accommodate 200,000 passengers daily. Today, it serves more than 650,000.

Nearly all the work on the project will be funded by private investment, in exchange for an interest in the long-term revenue stream generated by the retail and commercial rents.

“Penn is, in a word: miserable,” Cuomo said, during his 2016 State of the State address delivered last week. “It is un-New York, it is unwelcoming and it is unacceptable.”

The Empire Station Complex is just one part of the infrastructure programme Cuomo presented during his State of the State address.

Titled “Built to Lead”, Cuomo’s agenda for the year – a programme that will invest $100 billion in transformative projects statewide – gives infrastructure a central role in terms of increasing the state’s competitiveness, promoting economic growth and boosting job creation.

It includes investing a record $26.1 billion in the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), the largest transportation network in the US, as well as supporting a $10 million project to create a US Customs Federal Inspection Station (FIS) at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport that will allow it to accommodate international flights. It also involves upgrading airports located in Upstate New York and investing a record $22 billion to upgrade critical roads, bridges and other vital transportation infrastructure throughout New York State.

Since Cuomo first became governor of New York in January 2011 – he was re-elected for a second term in November 2014 – several major infrastructure projects have been underway. They include the Tappan Zee Bridge connecting Rockland and Westchester counties; the Goethals Bridge, a $1.5 billion P3 project the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey awarded in April 2013; and the $3.6 billion LaGuardia redevelopment project, which after several delays was awarded last May.

The second-busiest airport in the New York tri-state area, LaGuardia attracted negative attention when US Vice President Joe Biden used the airport as an example of the country’s declining infrastructure during a speech in February 2014. “If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you'd think, ‘I must be in some third-world country,’” he said at the time.

In his State of the State address Cuomo referenced Biden’s comment, saying: “If Vice President Biden was critical of LaGuardia Airport, we’re only lucky he didn’t take a train and end at Penn. I can only imagine what he would have said. But, we won’t give him the chance. We will build a new Penn Moynihan complex – finally,” Cuomo said.