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$250M for security went to waste: MTA

A transit official told a City Council committee that the MTA paid the Lockheed-Martin company $250 million to improve anti-terrorism security in the subways to little avail and that the transit agency had fired the company.

“Lockheed has not been able to pass the required software system tests needed for us to have confidence that everything can work as intended,” said Veronique Hakim, senior vice president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Capital Construction Co.

Hakim testified at a public hearing by the Council Transportation Committee, headed by Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) June 24 at City Hall.

Hakim said 15 of the 40 construction projects required to complete the security upgrade were behind schedule. The Council hearing was held in order to get an update on the progress of anti-terrorism work on the subways.

Hakim said Lockheed sued the MTA in April, alleging the MTA had breached its contract entitling it to terminate further work. The MTA, which entered the contract in August 2005, also has filed suit against the company.

“This MTA project was doomed from the beginning,” Liu told the hearing. “The MTA proceeded with the project in the face of public pressure to increase security on our subways.”

Liu said when the Transportation Committee questioned the effectiveness of the system and the wisdom of awarding such a long-term contract so hastily without a fully competitive bid, the MTA replied that Lockheed’s system was a proven technology.

“Now we learn that the MTA has flushed $250 million down the drain and has little to show for it,” Liu said.

Rather than trying to resurrect a failed project, the MTA must cut its losses and find real ways to protect passengers and the public,” said Liu.

The project involved installing 3,000 cameras and artificial intelligence systems to monitor potential threats in the subways.

At a Transportation Committee meeting in February 2006, the Transportation Committee questioned whether the artificial intelligence system would actually work, particularly after it had already been rejected by London transit officials as being ineffective.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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