With three months left in a seven-year project, you’d think that the company — or in this case, agency — managing the project would have a good handle on how much time would be needed for completion. You would think that by announcing very publicly an opening date, the agency would do all it could do to meet that opening date. You would think that yet another delay in a project that was once expected, far too optimistically, to be completed six or seven years ago for 50 percent less than its current budget would be cause for major concern. And perhaps, in some circles it is. But right now, it’s just business as usual.
During its board committee meetings earlier this week, the MTA let slip that the Fulton St. Transit Center will not have its official opening on Thursday as planned in March. Instead, as I speculated last week, the opening will be delayed another 60-90 days. As components to this project open, completion then will come by the end of September.
So what is holding up the project? It couldn’t be that, as with the 7 line, the MTA can’t get a bunch of elevators to work, right? These aren’t even incline elevators; these are your typical up-and-down escalators that are in every tall building and were invented in 1852. Well, lo and behold: If we consult the materials released after Monday’s meetings, one of the outstanding items concerns the elevators. Six elevators have yet to be tested. The MTA also needs to obtain its Code Compliance Certificate and wrap up testing of its fire alarms and communications systems.
In its short assessment of the state of this project, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant doesn’t have much to add on a specific level. The project has simply not met the requirements needed to be permitted to open yet, and it is but one of many outstanding MTA projects facing this issue. As a result, the IEC has urged the MTA to conduct a coordinated review of its megaprojects to “ensure resources can support their current schedules.” Even a cursory review — showing a three-month delay at Fulton St. and at least a year-long delay for the 7 line — cast more than just a shadow of doubt over any other schedules. A review could help shed light on the MTA’s finish line problem.
So we’ll wait for the politicians to slap their backs over a project with a tortured history. It began as an idea with a quick timeline for build out and a $700 million shortly after 9/11, and it has turned into a $1.4 billion transit hub across the street from a $4 billion transit hub at a time when building up would have made more sense fiscally than building a three-story mall. The station is nicer; the ADA compliant elements were badly needed; and transferring throughout Lower Manhattan is easier. Stumbling to the finish though is in line with the rest of this project’s problems. After all, the MTA’s house ads promising the opening of the Dey St. Passageway back in 2012 still hang in subway cars throughout the city.