WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Frazzled mass transit commuters are demanding relief, and New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday in search of money to provide it.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Cuomo hit the road to meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao amid New York City’s ongoing transit troubles.
He was asking the Trump administration to fund what some call the most important transportation project in the country.
The trip was a somewhat unusual move for Cuomo. His last D.C. trip to lobby for money was in late 2012 after Superstorm Sandy.
But now, he is back and looking for billions of dollars in federal funds.
“There has to be a sense of urgency and an actual funding commitment,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo met with New York Democrats at the Capitol before meeting with Chao. He is seeking $10 billion to fund the Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River.
The tunnel would be designed to help NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak increase capacity at Penn Station.
The current tunnel is more than 100 years old and was damaged by Sandy. It is due for a complete overhaul.
Cuomo is looking for the Trump administration to formally commit to paying half the cost.
“We had a funding commitment under the prior administration, President Obama, but there’s now a new administration, new program — everything starts anew,” Cuomo said, “and we need to know that the funding is in place.”
With almost every element of the region’s transit in crisis, fixing it has become a top priority for Cuomo.
The governor controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose board got an earful from straphangers Wednesday about the state versus city feud over funding the bus, subway and commuter rail capital improvement plan.
“Come on MTA chairman Lhota help us out, really. We’re all New Yorkers here, we’re trying to get to work, trying to get to where we need to go,” she said. “I rely on the R train, I rely on the ferry and on the buses. I can’t swim across to Staten Island. Help. Us. Out.”
Protesters carried glow sticks and illuminated signs mocking Cuomo, demanding that he stop spending millions on what they call “pretty lights on bridges” and fix the city’s subways, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) was among them, demanding that the highest earners step up and pay for the crumbling subway system.
“We are at a historic moment of wealth concentration in this country. The wealthy are wealthier than ever and the worker people are working harder just to stand still,” he said. “The last thing we’re going to want to do is have those people who are already suffering at the hands of the subway system suffer even more by asking them to pay for the fixes that are necessary.”
While the MTA has proposed that the city and state split the bill when it comes to fixing the subways, the protesters believe the problem should be on Cuomo’s shoulders alone.
But Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agree on one thing – the more money the system can get from the Trump administration the better.
“If anyone understands the infrastructure needs of New York State, it should be Donald Trump,” said U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) of Nassau County. “He spent his entire life there. He’s a builder.”
“I don’t agree with President Trump on most things, but one of the things I was hoping was since he’s a New Yorker, he knows the city, knows the state, knows what’s necessary that we would find a meeting of the minds,” said U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.)
Trump has also been a critic of Cuomo. In 2013, he slammed Cuomo’s plan for the Tappan Zee plan – saying in a tweet that he could “fix it for peanuts.”
The Trump administration has also called the Gateway Project “critically important.” But when Cuomo wrote the president about infrastructure in May, he never heard back.
Cuomo said he was not worried about it.
“Look… I don’t read much into the fact that the letter wasn’t returned,’ he said. “I know that the president has a lot of things that are going on, right?”
The federal government has already committed $6 billion for the MTA Capital Plan. Cuomo said if Trump does not approve the $10 billion for the Gateway Project, there is no Plan B to make it happen.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)