Time isn’t on the MTA’s side as December slowly creeps up on the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway. Years ago, the MTA vowed to deliver this long-delayed subway line to the Upper East Side before 2016 is out, and over the past six months, we’ve heard a steady drumbeat of bad news about the pace of work on the project. Now, with five months to go, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant is again sounding the alarm bell over the amount of work remaining while the MTA continues to promise a December 2016 opening. With numerous vital systems’ installations and tests still pending, the race to the end of the year doesn’t favor an on-time delivery.
The latest update came at Monday’s Board meeting session of the Capital Program Oversight Committee. The MTA first ran through its litany of updates, and the pending items sound awfully similar to those that delayed the opening of the 7 line extension by nearly 20 months. The agency notes that fire safety and communications systems at various stations remain behind schedule. At each of 72nd St., 86th St. and 96th St., the delay is in the testing of fire safety systems and, more importantly, the installation of critical communications systems. Since conduits were installed late, testing has been delayed, and without testing and acceptance, MTA Capital Construction cannot certify the project complete and ready for New York City Transit control. As of now, the MTA doesn’t expect these problems to cause a delay in revenue service date, but they appear in the red on the status dashboard.
Meanwhile, elevators too remain an MTA bugaboo. The agency has not yet received four elevator cabs for the 72nd St. station, largely due to last-minute design tweaks that delayed deliver of specifications for the elevators to the manufacturer. We’ve heard recently about the ongoing need for Change Orders related to this project, and this delay is a clear indication of the impact of those COs. With the project so delayed, the MTA has completed only 336 of the 608 tests it was due to wrap by June and is now pushing operations testing out by 30 days and into a short window set to begin on October 1.
In a follow-up presentation, the IEC issued its warning. “Based on the project’s reports and IEC field observations of station construction progress, the IEC finds that the project is not on schedule and has fallen further behind schedule in the month since our last report in June. The Project Team now needs to implement and maintain a revised schedule for completion of testing and for meeting the Revenue Service Date.”
The IEC notes that the MTA needs to spend money faster than it has been to support a December revenue service date and urged the MTA to adopt a four-prong approach to finishing on time. This plan involves speeding up testing, ensuring contractors deliver on time, speed up work on the backlog of pending changes and begin to close out station room inspections.
Despite all this, the MTA assured me earlier this week that revenue service in December remains on the table. The agency is prepared to cover unanticipated issues with the systems testing, and contractors are now working overtime and at night to ensure around-the-clock production. It’s a race; it always has been, but it’s shifted from a marathon to a sprint. For the sake of Upper East Siders’ sanity, the MTA’s credibility and, perhaps, Michael Horodniceanu’s job, the MTA is urging its contractors to get the job done before December. Time is not on their side.