Over the last few days, we’ve talked a lot about the MTA’s stimulus plans. Backed by statements by MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander, we explored the revival of the Fulton St. dome. Spurred on by idle speculation, on Monday, we contemplated the fate of the 7 line extension.
Now, according to one report, the agency may have something of an official wishlist. The MTA, however, maintains that this list is simply a recycled summary of projects and that the authority’s planners will not publish a planned list of stimulus projects until and unless the package is approved by Congress.
Matthew Sollars, a reporter with Crain’s New York, reported on the MTA’s alleged wishlist on Tuesday afternoon:
Sander said last week that the authority would spend $497 million from the federal stimulus package to complete the Fulton Street Transit Center in Manhattan. But the agency expected to receive more than $1.5 billion if the package is passed as it stands now, and while it says other mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway will get funds from the stimulus a large amount of money remains for upgrading dilapidated stations and other lower-profile projects.
Many of these projects were cut from the authority’s capital budget last summer when the Wall Street collapse first started. Some of the projects on the list include $34 million to replace the “gap fillers” on the 4, 5, and 6 lines at the Union Square station and roughly $120 million to rehabilitate 10 subway stations in Brooklyn…
The stimulus money would also be used to prevent the chaos caused by flooding during a massive rainstorm in 2007. The MTA plans to spend $47 million to install public announcement systems in 43 stations throughout the subway network that do not have them. During the 2007 floods, riders piled up on platforms and agents at the stations could not make announcements saying the trains weren’t coming.
According to a list of projects being passed around by transit advocates last week, the authority will also spend $200 million to install raised ventilation grates and bike racks in Queens and Manhattan, aimed at preventing future floods. An MTA spokesman says that figure is too high.
It’s easy to see why many think the MTA’s stimulus list stems from these pre-existing plans, but this is simply isn’t the case, according to Jeremy Soffin, the authority’s press secretary. In an e-mail to me on Tuesday in response to my post about the 10th Ave. station stop on the 7 line extension, Soffin said that “a final list will only be determined when there is a final bill.” Mostly, he noted, the MTA has a list of potential projects, and the breadth of the work will depend upon the amount the city receives in the final package. Soffin said:
We are grateful for the work of Senator Schumer and Congressman Nadler to increase funding for public transportation. We continue to maintain and update a list of projects that could be funded by the stimulus. We have proposed a long list of projects, which will be pared based on the final amount of the stimulus and the limitations set on the money by the legislation. Potential projects include some deferred from the current capital program, including some subway and commuter rail station work and maintenance of key infrastructure (shops, interlockings, substations, yards), purchase of subway cars and flood mitigation grates, and funding for mega-projects (Fulton Street, East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway).
It would of course be a boon for the MTA if they can receive funding to knock many of these projects off of the “to-do” list, but the overall impact of the Ravitch Report should not be forgotten. Stimulus spending is great for all, but the MTA needs a financial plan too. While transit watchers seem to be counting their stimulus chickens before the plans hatch, we can’t lose sight of the long-term problems facing the MTA.