ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo saved the biggest for last in his four-day State of the State Address — a largest-in-the-nation $306 billion infrastructure construction program.
The proposals he broadly outlined Thursday are heavily focused on New York City, and lacking in details on who’d pick up the tab, though he said he expected to work with President-elect Biden, a supporter of infrastructure improvement.
“While history has described the physical and economic benefits of public investment, there has been less discussion of the ancillary benefits,” Cuomo said. “Building new projects, enhancing day-to-day life, seeing progress, also lifts people’s spirits. Increasing belief in the future increases consumer and investor confidence, and in and of itself stimulates the economy.”
He cast the plan in the visionary mold of the Erie Canal, which opened the interior of the North American continent to commerce and settlement.
This huge new infrastructure plan is ideally suited to New York and stands in contrast to a nation that has lost its ambition, Cuomo said, sounding at times like his nemesis, soon-to-be-ex-President Trump.
“Once a world leader, this country lost the vision and political willpower to build boldly and bravely,” the governor said, standing before video screens showing Chinese bullet trains, Dubai skyscrapers and crumbling American infrastructure. “We lost sight of the connection between today’s construction and the prosperity of a thousand tomorrows. We chose to kick the can down the road — a road that was crumbling before our eyes. But in New York, we once again took a different path. Across the state we’re now building bigger and better and laying the foundation for our future.”
The only Capital Region component of the $306 billion plan that Cuomo mentioned Thursday is the $11.4 million project to convert an underused exit ramp on Interstate 787 into an elevated linear park in downtown Albany in partnership with the city. The Albany Skyway will include a landscaped promenade, events space and a shared-use path connecting downtown with surrounding neighborhoods.
Like some other projects mentioned Thursday, work on it is already underway; completion is scheduled later this year.
Other highlights include:
- The $51 billion Midtown West transit-oriented development plan in Manhattan, which includes a new Port Authority bus terminal, an improved and expanded Penn Station, affordable housing, a new waterfront park and expansion of the Javits convention center.
- Continued construction of the new $8 billion Laguardia Airport in Queens and continued transformation of JFK Airport, also in Queens, at a cost of $13 billion.
- An additional $100 million for modernization of upstate airports.
- Continuation of the MTA’s $51.5 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan for improving transportation infrastructure and mass transit in New York City.
- The Long Island Rail Road’s $2.6 billion main line track project.
- Investment of $1.7 billion to create direct highway access to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx.
- Completion of the $150 million project to improve Interstate 390/490 interchange near Rochester and improve traffic flow on routes 31 and 390.
- Completion of the $95 million re-decking of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
- Preparatory work for the $1.9 billion replacement of the Interstate 81 viaduct in Syracuse expected to start in 2022.
- Completion this year of the $14 million mid-station lodge on Whiteface Mountain, which burned in 2019.
Cuomo described the program he laid out in four stages this week as the path to a reimagined, rebuilt, renewed New York, once COVID-19 is vanquished.
“Altogether, including the new airports and roads and bridges and parks and housing in every corner of the state, and the visionary new redevelopment of the West Side of Manhattan, we are expanding our infrastructure plan to invest $306 billion in the future of New York. That’s not just the largest infrastructure plan in New York history. It’s the largest, most ambitious plan of any state in the nation.
“And we will make these investments at a time when the interest rates are low, when New Yorkers are looking for work, and when we can optimize the value of our investments.”