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Transit chief: Crosstown subway extension to 23rd Street possible

A surprise announcement at the Regional Plan Association's annual assembly

A train that starts at Flushing could extend to Manhattan's West 23rd Street if MTA chief Joe Lhota has his way. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The No. 7 train currently connecting Queens with Grand Central and Times Square could one day reach Chelsea and the West Side Highway, providing transit relief to midtown Manhattan’s most subway-starved area, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joe Lhota said today.

“As far as big projects are concerned, I could see the extension of the number 7 train to other parts of New York City’s West Side,” Lhota said at the annual summit of the Regional Plan Association, a tri-state urban planning organization. “It’s something I would like to see go all the way down to 23rd Street, and the West Side Highway, so we can incorporate that portion of the West Side that’s not receiving a whole lot of coverage.”

The MTA is currently expanding its No. 7 line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue at a cost of $2.1 billion. Since it is one of several ambitious capital transit projects already underway, including the creation of the Second Avenue subway line and the dig to bring the Long Island Railroad to the East Side, Lhota said he does not expect its further expansion to be included in the next capital budget. Mayor Michael Bloomberg originally envisioned extending No. 7 service as far as New Jersey, a possibility Lhota ruled out earlier this month.

Lhota said his announcement was part of plans to “take the New York City subway system, which was designed for the 19th century, and expand it for the 21st century.” In particular, that means upgrading the city’s subway signaling technology, which uses fixed signals on most lines, to a radio system called Communication-Based Train Control. A rollout of the new system, currently limited to the L train, will cut wait times for trains in half, Lhota said.