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MTA budget includes improvements for E, F

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The MTA's Capital Plan includes everything from computer-controlled No. 7 trains to speeded-up service on the E and F lines and money for the Second Avenue subway and the East Side East Side Access to bring Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central terminal. About $20 billion would go just toward buying new subway cars and buses, commuter rail cars and maintaining the present system. But the plan must first be approved by a state Legislative committee in Albany. Transit officials acknowledged that even after coming up with what they hoped were sources of money, they were still $9 billion short. MTA officials are hoping this is where the state Legislature will come to the rescue with major money. MTA board member Andrew Albert said "a few months ago - or last month - we had any number of legislators here saying 'ask us for money, ask us for money.' Well, we're asking now and it's more critical than ever now." Following an MTA board meeting Feb. 27, MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander was asked how serious the agency's financial bind was. "I think that if this plan is not passed, it compromises the future of the region as we now know it. I think the stakes are about as high as they can be." Sander said that without sufficient funding for everyday maintenance and rolling stock replacement, the transit system was in danger of falling back to the way things were in the 1970s and 1980s with what was called deferred maintenance. It resulted in frequent breakdowns, ever-worse crowding, grimy stations and graffiti smeared cars and a general deterioration of service. The plan estimates that congestion pricing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to charge motorists who drive into Manhattan's central business district $8 ($21 for trucks) would raise $4.5 billion, or 15 percent of the money needed to fulfill the needs of the MTA.As to the expansion projects, such as the Second Avenue subway and the East Side Access, Sander said, "we must take the next step in our investment if we are to compete with cities like London and Shanghai, where billions are being invested in transit each year." Queens projects and improvements under the five-year plan would include: Computerization of E, F and No. 7 subway lines to permit more trains per hour. East Side Access to bring the LIRR into Grand Central Terminal. Renovations to allow improved transfers at Jamaica. More service on E and F lines and additional bus routes as well as more service on many bus lines. The MTA also said the East Side Access project and the Second Avenue subway, both originally scheduled for completion in 2013, are now targeted to be done in 2015. The East Side Access, Second Avenue subway, Fulton Street Transit Center and South Ferry project together are $1.5 billion over budget, MTA officials said. Much of the higher costs was attributed to fast-rising costs of steel and concrete. Bloomberg said "together with the governor and our partners in Albany and in the City Council, we must provide the MTA with the money it needs to help our region grow and prosper."Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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