When the MTA faltered during the December blizzard, a few sources mentioned concerned over costs as a reason why the authority was slow to adopt a Plan IV response. While those charges were vehemently denied, other long-term cost concerns have led to deferred investment in show removal equpiment, Pete Donohue reported yesterday.
In his weekly column in the Daily News, Donohue delved into these financial difficulties:
One of the biggest mistakes that hampered the MTA during the December blizzard might have been a failure to act – years before the first flakes fell. At least as far back as 2008, Metropolitan Transportation Authority managers in charge of subway equipment deemed the fleet of snow-clearing trains too old and too small.
An MTA planning document from February 2008 stated that the authority should spend $9.5 million to buy eight new and powerful snow thrower cars “in order to ensure the tracks are kept clear, and service is not compromised in winter storms.”
The authority, however, moved as quickly as an A train stuck in a snowdrift. It still hasn’t purchased the big rigs. A spokesman last week cited “financial constraints” as a reason for initial delays, but he also said the current administration does intend to buy the equipment. “We’re moving forward,” the spokesman said.
This has now become a familiar refrain from the MTA. As I explored last week, the MTA knew about structural deficiencies at 181st St. years before the ceiling collapsed, but the authority simply did not have the dollars to address the problem. Now, we’re hearing the same thing in regards to the authority’s weather response preparedness and 30-year-old snow blasters that are due for replacement.
These are, in essence, early warning signs of a system on the brink of disaster. It costs money — a lot of money — to maintain an extensive network of subway tracks, trains and stations. Even as the MTA pares down its administrative costs, it still needs enough capital money to fulfill those maintenance demands, and right now, with a $10 billion hole in the capital budget, that future is murky. Will it take another monstrous snow storm or ceiling collapse before the people controlling the purse strings start paying attention?