Polimeni: Tunnel to nowhere

By: Michael Polimeni on June 10, 2011
Originally published by: LIBN

At the foot of the Washington Mall is a permanent tribute to America’s precarious commitment to finishing the job.

A third of the way up the Washington Monument obelisk, the color of the stone work clearly changes, dramatic evidence that our nation began the job of honoring our nation’s first president only to stop for some 30 years and ponder the unfinished pile of stone before admitting it was embarrassed enough to find the funds to restart construction.

The problem isn’t unique to Washington. In New York the role of bridges in creating a vibrant city had been proven time and again when the Triborough Bridge was proposed during the economic boom of the 1920s. Footings and blueprints were well along when the city stopped the project, and the enormous promise of this span was left unfilled. It would take the Great Depression to highlight the role of infrastructure in rebuilding our economy before the Triborough (now Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge was completed.

Meanwhile the nearly 80 years of planning, starting and stopping Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway is the stuff of red-faced legend. It simply couldn’t get worse than that. Or could it?

Some $5 billion dollars into the creation of the LIRR East Side Access Tunnel there is no long-term funding source in place for the $2 billion more that will ensure its completion. A tunnel so essential to the economic strengthening of both Long Island and New York, infrastructure crucial to addressing so many issues ranging from destructive delays at Penn Station to reducing our energy dependence, could come to a screeching halt.

Those who hold the purse strings cannot allow past to become prologue by permitting the East Side Access to go dark when borings have already been completed, connections are being welded together in Queens and Amtrak continues to make a muck of Penn Station for LIRR commuters.

The New York metro region became the vibrant and diverse economic capital of the world because we strove to build and complete infrastructure projects that made it so. If we are to build a future that protects that legacy, we owe ourselves the responsibility of finishing East Side Access.

Polimeni is executive board member of ABLI and COO of Polimeni International, in Garden City.