Congestion pricing will fix ‘crumbling’ infrastructure: pol
by Benjamin Fang
Feb 27, 2019 | 6420 views | 0 0 comments | 282 282 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After a wooden beam fell from the 7 train tracks and smashed through a car windshield in Woodside last week, elected officials and advocates are pointing to the incident as evidence that MTA infrastructure is literally crumbling.

According to MTA spokesman Shams Tarek, officials believe that the wood fell from a worker or supply platform that was installed beneath the elevated tracks years ago.

The platform has been dismantled and removed, and the MTA is checking the rest of the 7 line and other elevated structures in the system.

A full investigation is ongoing, Tarek said.

“We take this incident extremely seriously, are conducting a full investigation into what happened, have personnel ensuring the rest of the area is safe, and are relieved that no one was injured,” he said in a statement.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who shared images of the scene from witnesses, said in a statement that what happened was “horrifying.”

“Thankfully the driver was not injured, but someone could have been killed,” Van Bramer said. “MTA must answer for our crumbling subway infrastructure before a tragedy occurs.”

The occurrence took place during a week when transit advocates from the Riders Alliance were hosting subway ride-alongs with legislators to build support for congestion pricing.

The next day, advocates joined State Senator Jessica Ramos at the Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street station in Jackson Heights to survey subway riders about delays and conditions.

“The driver could have been impaled by this wooden plank,” Ramos said. “It’s a very dangerous situation.”

Ramos added that last year a piece of concrete also fell from the 7 train viaduct on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside.

“Our infrastructure is literally crumbling,” she said. “Congestion pricing needs to be done now.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers have until April 1 to include the funding mechanism into the state budget. With a little over 30 days to go, transit advocates are increasing pressure on legislators to get it done on time.

“We have a critical opportunity,” said Daniel Coates, director of organizing and campaigns with the Riders Alliance, “in a small window of time that is closing with every single day.”

The governor’s proposed measure would charge cars and trucks driving into Manhattan south of 60th Street, although it’s unclear what that exact amount would be just yet.

Advocates and officials believe it would raise at least $1 billion a year to fund the MTA’s Fast Forward plan, which would modernize the subway’s old signals, tracks and cars. It would also fund additional elevators at stations.

The Riders Alliance previously rode trains with State Senator Michael Gianaris and State Senator Julia Salazar. They plan to continue the series with State Senator Andrew Gounardes and assemblywomen Catalina Cruz, Maritza Davila, Aravella Simotas and more.

“We believe that a fully funded transit program involves congestion pricing,” Coates said. “It cannot all happen with congestion pricing, but it cannot happen without congestion pricing.”

Ramos said talking to frustrated straphangers was one of the reasons why she ran for office. She remembered one particularly enraging experience during the “Summer of Hell” two years ago, when the 7 train was delayed for two hours.

As a City Hall staffer then, Ramos recalled seeing a woman next to her sobbing because she was going to lose hourly wages. Another rider was upset because it was her first day in a new job and she was going to make a bad first impression.

“What we’re seeing is that the state of our public transportation system is crumbling so much so that it can very much contribute to a grinding halt in our local economy when people can’t get to work on time,” she said.

Though the measure does not have unanimous support in the legislature, Ramos said she wants to build consensus among her colleagues and keep talking to everyday riders.

Last month, state lawmakers from eastern Queens complained that the MTA did not release any details of a possible congestion pricing plan, leaving them in the dark. Ramos agreed that they need more details.

“We’re probably going to end up with a congestion pricing plan that nobody likes,” Ramos said.

“It’ll mean that we’ll have to come to a good compromise.

“I personally hope not to see too many carve-outs to essentially make congestion pricing obsolete,” she added. “This is something we need to work on.”
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