A 2009 MTA slide still tells a story of delays and high costs for the Second Ave. Subway.
Nearly a year ago, the Federal Transit Authority disputed the MTA’s claims that the Second Ave. Subway would open by the end of 2016. While the FTA’s estimates had Phase 1 costs at nearly $5 billion and the opening in mid-2018 at the latest. Officially, the MTA had disputed these figured and continued to proclaim a 2016 date for the project. Now, it seems, the tide is turning for the worse.
According to a report in The Observer, the MTA is officially acknowledging the risks of delays and overruns for both the East Side Access and Second Ave. Subway projects. The details are not pretty:
By these estimates, the Second Avenue Subway is now estimated to cost $4.98 billion, another $307 million beyond the numbers the M.T.A. had been working off, with completion in February 2018, up from December 2016. East Side Access is now at $8.1 billion, up $328 million, with completion in April 2018, up from September 2016. (At the same time, the M.T.A. still says that it believes it can bring the projects in below these numbers and on its schedule.) …
All told, the situation involving East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway tells a story that is all too frequent with giant public sector projects. The projects were approved and sold to the public with one price tag, only to see the budget prove far too insignificant (very rarely, if ever, do projects come in well below their initial projections). And once a project has started—once the foot is in the door—it becomes really difficult to pull the plug, even if the public would never have signed onto the initial price tag.
In this case, the Second Avenue Subway was initially supposed to be $4.1 billion, with completion slated for June 2014; East Side Access was budgeted at $6.3 billion, to be finished in December 2013.
With regard to these projects, M.T.A. spokesman Jeremy Soffin said the agency would work toward the existing budget, which it views as attainable. “We have a budget and a time line that we’re working toward and we plan to meet,” he said. “Both we and the F.T.A. acknowledge that here’s risk inherent in these projects.”
According to Eliot Brown, the FTA has blamed rising construction costs and poor oversight as sources for both the delays and cost increases along Second Ave. As the MTA has capital funds secured only through 2011 but significant federal contributions to this project, Phase 1 will open eventually this decade, but I have my doubts about Phase 2 and beyond. Simply put, for the MTA to earn more support for capital investment of this magnitude, these projects need to meet their deadlines and budgets. So far, these goals have been elusive ones indeed.