EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- The next phase of the Second Avenue subway is starting sooner than you think!
Two stories below East Harlem, a phantom subway tunnel sits deserted but far from forgotten.
"A fully formed subway tunnel and it's sitting here vacant," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said. "You think about all the potential that was missed over the years but now we're going to think about all the potential we're going to unlock."
Now, it's the key to finishing a promise made 80 years ago.
Click here to read the latest update on this story.
In an Eyewitness News exclusive, Buttigieg told reporter Josh Einiger how more than $3 billion in federal aid will jumpstart commutes for an entire neighborhood, including tens of thousands of New Yorkers in East Harlem, a transit desert.
"One thing that's important about this neighborhood is it has more people who rely on transit than possibly any other part of the city, but less service when it comes to not having access to the subway," Buttigieg said. "This is a chance to change that."
The Biden administration will hand over half of the nearly $8 billion the MTA needs to complete phase two of the Second Avenue subway, carrying straphangers north past 96th Street, and then west along 125th Street to meet up with Metro North and the 4, 5, 6 lines.
On Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul and MTA Chairman Janno Lieber gave Buttigieg a tour of a section of tunnel completed 50 years ago before the fiscal crisis of the 1970s mothballed the whole project, until now.
What's amazing is how much all of this infrastructure has been sitting virtually abandoned now for decades.
They have the basis to start the project and they're already so far along because it's already here.
Josh Einiger got a look at what will be the 116th Street Q stop, in at least eight years from now.
It'll take that long, and cost so much, because there's still so much more work to do, to extend the tunnel in both directions.
Buttigieg says the Department of Transportation will be monitoring to make sure the project stays on point.
"We've set up an entire effort on projects large and small to get the most value for money, the most bang for our buck and we're putting those lessons to work on big efforts like this," he said. "This subway is iconic for a reason. It's one of the world's most important engineering achievements and now we need to take it to the next level."
Once the first shovel hits the ground, the MTA says it'll take eight years to complete.