2 thoughts on “Abrupt Reversal on L Train Shutdown Raises Credibility Issues for MTA, Experts Say

  1. Pingback: Cuomo's L train maneuvers create a crisis of credibility - Second Ave. Sagas :: Second Ave. Sagas

  2. Last Tuesday’s MTA Emergency Board meeting called by Governor Cuomo ended up being window dressing for his proposed new NYC Transit Canarsie subway l Line tunnel design. At the end of the day, there were more questions than answers. Six years after Super Storm Sandy, why is this now an emergency? MTA HQ, Board members, NYC Transit, NYCDOT managers and engineers still need more time to review and comment on this “new design” along with budget, environmental and schedule impacts for tunnel repairs. The same holds true for both the MTA & Federal Transit Administration independent engineering oversight consulting firms.

    It makes no sense to reassign management of this project from NYC Transit to MTA Office of Capital Construction. NYC Transit has already successfully managed several Super Storm Sandy federally funded tunnel projects. For the most part, they were completed on time, within budget, accompanied by few design or change orders. Contrast that with MTA’s Office of Capital Construction’s track record. East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal, if all goes well with the most recent recovery schedule, will be completed ten years late and $8 billion more than the original $3.5 billion budget. Check out the original 2006 MTA/FTA Full Funding grant agreement and read it. Second Avenue Subway Phase One and Hudson Yards #7 subway extension both suffered from delays, budget and change order issues. Capital Construction currently has their hands full trying to complete ESA by December 2022 and begin Second Avenue Subway Phase 2.

    Why should NYC Transit hire yet another engineering consulting firm to perform an independent review of Governor Cuomo’s proposed redesign? This just duplicates the work of the MTA’s existing Capital Program Oversight Committee independent engineer. The same holds true for the FTA’s existing independent engineering consultant, who is usually assigned to monitor any MTA or NYC Transit federally funded capital improvement project over $100 million. Paying for another engineering consulting firm is a waste of scarce financial resources.

    Several hundred million was previously provided under a Federal Transit Administration Super Storm Sandy Recovery and Resiliency grant in 2016. Based upon the board presentation, questions, answers and discussions, the MTA will probably have to update FTA’s previously approved project Environmental Impact Statement. It is clear that the scope of work, project schedule, completion date, budget and useful life of investments will be different from the original grant commitments. How will the MTA inform FTA of these changes when they have been furloughed? The MTA is legally required as part the master grant agreement with FTA to provide monthly financial and milestone progress reports. This includes any changes to scope of work and contract change orders over $100,000. This is accomplished under the FTA Transit Award Management System known as TRAMS. MTA and NYCDOT provide these reports on many other active capital projects and programs worth over $12 billion. When will the MTA met with FTA and its own independent engineering oversight consulting firm to provide a presentation on the new “design” changes?

    As these developments continue to unfold, I would not be surprised when the MTA and FTA respective Office of Inspector General, NYC & NYS Comptroller’s Offices begin to take an interest. Sooner or later they will initiate their own respective review to see if there is any waste, fraud or abuse of taxpayers dollars. Their respective audits and reports will make interesting reading. As they say in Brooklyn, development of this project is beginning to sound fugazy.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)

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