Home MTA Construction Subway construction plans in jeopardy

Subway construction plans in jeopardy

by Benjamin Kabak


Long before he took office, New York’s new governor, Eliot Spitzer, had championed capital construction projects aimed toward improving the state’s transportation infrastructure. High on that list of priorities was the Second Ave. subway.

Even at such an early stage, the funding for Spitzer’s goals was far from assured. Upstate representatives to Albany were concerned about funneling so much into a city-centric agency such as the MTA, and the billions of dollars needed to complete the first stage of the Second Ave. subway and the Grand Central-LIRR link were never going to be easy to find.

Now, just a few weeks into Spitzer’s term as governor, the financial outlook for these projects does not look too rosy. In fact, to survive the cutting board, Spitzer may need to step in and deliver the big bucks for the MTA because the MTA’s debt problem may mean yet another postponement for these much-needed projects. The Times Ledger reports:

The problem is that the MTA’s capital program, which runs through 2009 is running over budget by at least $1.4 billion, according to a report first published by the New York Times. As result of heavy borrowing, the MTA faces years of enormous debt starting next year.

The $21 billion program is supposed to provide for not only what the MTA calls its mega projects Ð the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal but also the purchase of hundreds of new rail cars and the improvement of signal systems and other subway equipment.

Accordingly, Elliott Sander, the new executive director and CEO of the MTA, will do what heads of bureaucracies do best: appoint a committee. After last week’s The Times’ report, Sander decided to investigate the claims made concerning the MTA’s financials. While he and MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow are skeptical of the alleged $1.4 billion overrun, Sander did note that some of the bigger projects could be put on the back burner while routine maintenance demands are met.

For those in New York who have been waiting decades for the Second Ave. subway, it would come as no surprise if this project is delayed yet again. But with the federal government kicking in some money for the Second Ave. subway, I would be surprised to see this new subway delayed yet again. Optimism may reign supreme in hoping for the arrival of a subway line 70 years in the planning.

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Marsha February 12, 2007 - 10:51 am

Why am I not surprised? Will this project ever happen?

Peter February 13, 2007 - 8:58 am

When MTA-NYCT geared up for the MetroCard, the number disussed as the cost of installing the system was, as I recall, in the mid-$700 Million range. I expect that the budget number was probably exceeded (what capital project ever comes in under budget, for any large organization?), and that it likely did not include secondary costs, like upgrading the antiquated electical systems of many old stations, and other indirect expenses.

At the time, I wondered why, instead of paying nearly a billion dollars up front, why NYCT didnt simply throw open the turnstiles, and take the $750Mil and put it in the bank. The cost of collecting and accounting revenue has gone down with electronic fare collection, but if NO money was collected, hundreds, maybe thousands of employees could be reassigned, or eliminated by attrition.

Obviously, despite attractive possibilities, “free” transit service would have many political and practical ramifications, and probably some significant unintended consequences, those mentioned in your subject essay among them.

As for Mr Kheel’s proposal, it is even less likely than the suggestion of imposing tolls on the now-free East River bridges, the mere mention of which causes the American Automobile Assoc. to dispatch a regiment of attorneys to the State Supreme Court.

New York pols worried about MTA debt levels « Second Ave. Sagas April 2, 2007 - 12:53 am

[…] MTA’s current debt problems are no secret. For starters, I’ve written about it here, here and here over the last few months. But now New York City and state politicians are beginning […]


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