When the South Ferry station finally opened on Monday, it did so following a two-month delay due to an engineering error. MTA engineers, not accounting for a slight curve in the station, miscalculated the gap between the trains and the platform. When the agency ran some final tests on the station in January, this platform gap was in violation of ADA requirements.
Over the last few months, this gap — ranging from about one to three inches — has been the butt of many a joke directed at the MTA. It’s symbolic of the problems MTA construction projects have, and the fact that the station opened 15 months was hardly a surprise. From staircases to stations, the MTA’s on-time rate could use some work.
That said, Michael Horodniceanu, head of MTA Capital Construction, was more than willing to shoulder the blame. WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman reported:
REPORTER: Just days before the planned opening in January, the MTA discovered the gap between the trains and the platform measured up to four inches. That exceeded federal regulations by an inch. The head of the MTA’s capital construction division, Michael Horodniceanu, says the authority’s design guidelines didn’t take into account the curve of the platform.
HORODNICEANU: The standards that we had were for a straight-line station or a station that is in a very slight curve and this was more than that.
REPORTER: The MTA built an extra two inches on to the platform, knowing that some of it will rub off as trains come into and out of the station. The materials and in-house labor cost an extra $150,000. Horodniceanu says for a $530 million project, it’s a minor mistake.
I’m pleased to see Horodniceanu note the MTA’s mistake, but I have to hope that the engineer who didn’t allow for the sharper curve no longer has a job. It’s also worth noting that Horodniceanu, a few months into the job as head of Capital Construction, isn’t to blame. This one lies with Mysore Nagaraja and the people he had working on this project.
As the Senate debates disposing of Elliot Sander as MTA CEO and executive director, the men Sander has picked to fill his top spots are far more reliable and honest than previous MTA workers. While straphangers never want to see these construction delays and costs mount, at least now the agency is taking ownership of the problem. That’s progress we shouldn’t lose over politics.
Update 12:42 a.m. (Friday): I wanted to clarify something here. I don’t think that Nagaraja should have been fired for this mistake. I don’t think any of the engineers should have been fired. I meant that line as more of a flippant comment on Dr. Horodniceanu’s mea culpa. Nagaraja did an excellent job as head of MTA Capital Construction. He was a driving force behind the MTA’s current state-of-good-repair campaign and opened the tunnels south of the World Trace Center faster than anyone assumed.
This South Ferry mistake is a routine one that could impact any project. The longer delays are more of a concern, but those in charge are aware of the problem. Projects like these run into things — historic Battery walls, complications — and are tough to complete on time.