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Schumer says Obama’s stimulus could boost state

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D−N.Y.) said a massive Obama economic stimulus plan could not only provide a lift for financially beleaguered New York state but restore stalled transit projects in the city, creating thousands of jobs.

“This economic stimulus package would be a win−win for commuters and a shot in the arm for our aging mass transit system,” Schumer said at a news conference at his Manhattan office this week.

Schumer and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D−Brooklyn) said they were working to get $20 billion in federal money for mass transit nationwide, which would mean $4 billion for city subways, buses and commuter rail lines.

The two lawmakers said that along with being a smart economic investment, boosting mass transit in New York and nationwide would help conserve energy and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Although specific details of the funding plan are incomplete, Schumer and Nadler said the so−called “shovel−ready projects” would get priority in funding because they would create instant jobs for thousands of workers.

Schumer and Nadler said the stimulus dollars would be earmarked for a variety of capital projects, ranging from big−ticket items, such as upgrading entire subway stations and rebuilding subway tracks, to smaller projects, like painting bridges and installing new bus depots.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has indicated that a number of high−priority projects delayed by the agency’s $1.2 billion budget gap could benefit from the proposed funding from Washington.

They include a new bus depot in Jamaica; a 10th Avenue station in Manhattan on the No. 7 line extension project; rehabilitation of more than 20 subway stations; the East Side Access project; improvement of access for the disabled at 20 Long Island Rail Road stations; the purchase of 1,575 new hybrid buses; and expansion of Bus Rapid Transit, which are buses that run in dedicated lanes, are equipped with transponders to prolong green lights until they pass intersections and whose passengers pay before board, saving time on runs.

Schumer and Nadler said that besides the $20 billion for capital improvement, they will push for an additional $2 billion in direct aid for transit agencies included in the stimulus, which could be used by the MTA and other transit systems to cover rapid increases in daily operation costs and would help toward closing the MTA budget gap.

The MTA voted last week to approve a “doomsday” budget that would deliver a blow to the city transit system by doing away with the W and Z subway lines, shortening others, decreasing frequency of service and raising fares to as much as $3, although final estimates have yet to be announced.

It would be implemented by late March if financial aid is not forthcoming, with the fare hikes coming in May or June.

Schumer said the stimulus package could bring New York up to $5 billion in funding for Medicaid, which would be a major help in easing the state’s $14 billion budget gap.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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