April 17, 2006 --
WASHINGTON - The feds have green-lighted the long-awaited Second Avenue subway, The Post has learned.
The Federal Transit Administration plans to announce today that the massive project's first $5 billion section "meets the criteria" for going into "final development" - Washingtonspeak for approval of the initiative.
With this new OK, design and engineering contractors can start spending the $1.3 billion in federal funds set aside for the first phase of a transit line that eventually will run from East Harlem to the Financial District.
"The wheels are turning on the Second Avenue subway project, that's for sure," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the East Side. "This is another sign of the progress we're making."
The next step: breaking ground. The hope is that the first leg, from 63rd to 96th streets, will be ready for use by 2012.
While supporters see the new approval as the light at the end of a long tunnel, New York's congressional delegation will have to fight each year to ensure that the funding is provided. The state is kicking in $450 million, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority $3 billion.
The FTA told Congress this month that it planned to issue the go-ahead after a 10-day notice. A document revealing the decision was obtained by The Post.
The project is aimed at relieving overcrowding on the No. 4, 5, and 6 trains, which all run along Lexington Avenue - the East Side's only subway line.
The feds estimate that the first phase will take six to 12 years to complete. They also predict that, when completed in 2030, the new line will save riders a collective 62,300 hours per weekday by cutting their walk and transfer times.
In 2012, the feds say, the MTA will be able to extend the uptown Q train from its current terminus at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue to Second Avenue stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Street. At first, riders will be able to head downtown by switching to the Lexington line at 63rd or taking the new line to lower Manhattan along Broadway.
Eventually, the line will run 81/2 miles through its own tunnel down the East Side, from 125th Street to Hanover Square. The feds estimate the full project to cost in excess of $13 billion.
The idea of a Second Avenue subway is hardly new - it was first proposed in 1929.