There is more to “Transit Quagmire” (TimesLedger editorial, March 10-16) concerning Gov. Andrew Cuomo cutting $65 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget and ongoing problems with both the LIRR and No. 7 subway.
Besides cutting $65 million, Cuomo only proposed providing $1.5 billion more toward the $8.3 billion shortfall he originally promised two years ago to fully fund the $29 billion 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan.
This leaves a balance of $5.8 billion that he owes carried over into 2018 and 2019. Cuomo still needs to come up with the $5.8 billion balance of the $8.3 balance he still owes to fully fund the capital plan: $6 billion for Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, $6 billion for New York State’s 25 percent share of the $24 billion Amtrak Gateway Tunnel, $3 billion federal loan owed for the Tappan Zee Bridge and $2 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track between Floral Park and Hicksville in Nassau County, just to name a few.
Riders have had to endure too many years of inconvenience as a result of the MTA NYCT investing $774 million in Communication Based Train Control on the Flushing No. 7 line.
With or without CBTC, there are opportunities to increase capacity and service by running trains more frequently midday, evenings after rush hour, overnight and weekends 24/7 on the 7 line.
Until the 1980s, there was Manhattan-bound express service till 12:30 p.m. on the 7. Flushing-bound express service began shortly after 1 p.m. There has been no express service between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. due to periodic ongoing track, power, signal and routine maintenance projects for decades, including work over recent years to support CBTC.
Upon completion and implementation of CBTC by early 2018 (which was supposed to have been completed between October and December 2016), let us hope midday express service will resume. Will it be worth investing $774 million in CBTC when it may only result in increasing the number of rush hour trains by two from 30 to 32 in each direction?
LIRR riders have been waiting for direct future East Side Access service to Grand Central Terminal since work started on the 63rd Street East River tunnel on Nov. 24, 1969! The anticipated revenue service date has slipped on numerous occasions from the original 2011 target. (Some elected officials promised 2009). Cost has grown from $3.5 billion in 2001 to $10.8 billion today and perhaps $12 billion by 2023.
The MTA “corporate party line” claim (based upon the most recent project recovery schedule which has also changed numerous times during the life of the project) calls for a December 2023 opening day passenger service.
Based upon previous history of delays, changes in procurement strategy, readvertising of contracts, change orders to contracts, resequencing of work, recovery schedules, cost overruns, budget issues and coordination issues with Amtrak, including providing construction contractors with insufficient track outage time necessary to perform work, don’t be surprised if the first day of passenger service occurs in 2024 or later.
Cuomo reminds me of the character Wimpy, who famously said: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Tuesday never seems to come for Queens commuters and taxpayers.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New York Region 2 Office)
©2017 Community News Group
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