digging for answers

Utica Ave. Subway Extension MIA as MTA Plans Projects

City Hall has pushed a study on extending the 4 train down Utica Avenue.
City Hall has pushed a study on extending the 4 train down Utica Avenue. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.

The state-run MTA projects it will need $3 billion from City Hall to help bankroll its new $51.5 billion blueprint of big-ticket transit projects.

But a $5 million study looking at the possibility of extending subway service along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn — included in the MTA’s current five-year financial plan at the behest of Mayor Bill de Blasio — didn’t earn so much as a mention when transit officials outlined the proposed 2020-2024 Capital Program earlier this week.

An MTA spokesperson was tight-lipped Wednesday when THE CITY asked about the status of the feasibility study, which had been given a February 2020 deadline. The assessment, which began in April, is listed as “0% complete” on the agency’s online Capital Program Dashboard.

“There’s a process for releasing additional details on the 2020-2024 Capital Program and as more details are released, there will be additional clarification relating to the Utica extension,” said the spokesperson, Andrei Berman.

Old Idea Getting New Look

De Blasio told reporters Wednesday he has not had a chance to “analyze” the new plan, which is the largest in the history of the MTA. It’s counting on a $3 billion infusion from the city, but the mayor said he was going to “reserve judgement” on the plan for now.

“We have to really give it a good look before being able to comment,” he said.

It’s not known yet how much money — if any — will go toward a potential Utica Avenue subway extension in the new and not-yet-funded capital program.

The study area. Photo: MTA

The idea to extend subway service along Utica Avenue has been around for more than a century. Four years ago, de Blasio revived it in his “OneNYC” growth agenda as a proposal that was later tucked into the 2015-2019 Capital Program.

The study is weighing a string of options, including extending the subway south from either the Utica Avenue stop on the A/C lines or the Utica Avenue 3/4 train stop on Eastern Parkway. Other options include a light rail line and faster buses. It’s also supposed to look into possible funding sources.

But it’s the subway extension — either underground or elevated — that many riders believe would most improve their commutes, which often involve transferring between the subway and a bus.

“The idea’s been around almost 100 years,” said Thurman Harris, 33, who was at the No. 4’s Utica Avenue terminal. “Why not make things a little more convenient for people by stretching the subway down Utica?”

‘So Much Easier’

Utica Avenue is home to the busiest bus route in Brooklyn, the local and Select Bus Service B46. The B46 carried more than 12.4 million riders in 2018, making it the third-busiest route in the five boroughs.

“I’ve been waiting almost 30 minutes for a bus,” said Maria Rodriguez, 65, who was waiting for a B46 local in Crown Heights. “A train would be so much easier.”

A City Hall spokesperson pointed to the 2016 launch of Select Bus Service and the addition of “bus bulbs” — essentially traffic islands — on Utica Avenue as improvements along the thoroughfare. But he acknowledged that a subway extension would be a “more transformative improvement” that would “help get New Yorkers moving and connect them with jobs.”

 “Why not make things a little more convenient for people by stretching the subway down Utica?” said Thurman Harris, 33.
“Why not make things a little more convenient for people by stretching the subway down Utica?” said Thurman Harris, 33. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

“We have been working closely with the MTA as they undertake their planning study, and will discuss next steps after the study is completed,” said the spokesperson, Seth Stein.

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.