While on Monday the MTA warned that the Second Ave. Subway may not be open until 2017, the Federal Transit Authority is far more pessimistic. In fact, the Feds’ worst-case scenario has Phase I of the new subway line wrapping up in mid-2018 and for a cost of over $5.7 billion, a potential 30 percent increase over the MTA’s current budget projections.
Yesterday morning, the MTA Board’s capital construction committee met to discuss the state of the authority’s current big-ticket items. Foremost on the agenda was the oft-delayed Second Ave. Subway, and the news was not good. In a presentation of a yearlong study focusing on the Second Ave. Subway, the MTA had determined that the project has been mismanaged and under-projected. In a similar study, the FTA believed that the MTA’s adjusted projections could be far too optimistic.
The graph above — click here to enlarge — tell the story. Heather Haddon of amNew York first sent it to me when I e-mailed her about her story. Michael Grynbaum and The Times has made the full eight-page presentation avaliable on Scribd.
The story is simple: The MTA has been unable to meet any of its self-imposed deadlines, and it now faces the prospects of massive cost overruns and a six-year delay in delivering Phase I of the Second Ave. Subway. Original plans called for the entire line to be constructed by 2020. That is but a pipe dream right now.
The FTA numbers are alarming. The MTA is budgeting for an expected cost of $4.451 billion with a high end of $4.775 billion. The FTA believes a low budget estimate to be $4.978 billion with an August 2017 completion date. The federal government’s high end is $5.728 billion — over $1 billion more than the current MTA estimate — with a June 2018 opening date.
Michael Horodniceanu, the president of MTA Capital Construction, grew defensive during Wednesday’s meeting. He claimed that the federal government had “made different assumptions,” but as you can see, these high FTA estimates as presented by the MTA were already scrubbed of the potential rolling stock costs. He also claims, as Pete Donohue reported, that “the latest delay is partly because the MTA broke up large construction tasks into smaller projects to foster more competition among contractors and lower authority expenses.”
In addressing the board, Horodniceanu made a few bold promises he probably can’t keep. “Our original schedules were extremely optimistic,” he said, later adding, “We will deliver. You can hold me accountable to our numbers.”
In June, Horodniceanu made a similar claim with regards to the Fulton St. Hub. It will, he said of that long-delayed project, be open by 2014, seven years beyond its original schedule but in line with the MTA’s estimates in 2009.
Meanwhile, the vultures are circling. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants an investigation into the delays. “I call on the MTA Inspector General to open an immediate investigation of what has caused this latest delay,” he said in a statement. “The people and businesses of our city deserve not an endless list of excuses and rising costs, but an actual subway that will reduce crowding on the Lexington Avenue lines and provide service to East Side residents who have not had trains for decades.”
As time moves on, though, Stringer’s words will be forgotten. The Second Ave. Subway, funded and under construction for not the first time in its tortured history, marches further into the future. As we turn calendar pages, these completion dates come not closer but ever more distant. When will this subway arrive? When will someone take responsibility for this monumental disaster, a boondoggle on the Upper East Side?