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MTA's needs assessment missing helpful cost information

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Friday, November 3, 2023   

New York advocates want to see changes made to MTA's 20-year needs assessment.

Along with infrastructure modernization work, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's assessment proposes making most New York City Subway and Long Island Railroad stations handicap accessible by 2045. However, policy experts feel it's missing certain elements.

Rachael Fauss, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, said they need a cost estimate for bringing the entire New York Subway system up to a state of good repair.

"Without having an estimate of the cost, both in the short term, so over a five-year period, and then also a 20-year period, there's nothing to measure the forthcoming capital plan against," she said. "You can't know if the right investments are being made if you don't have a place to start from."

She added that previous needs assessments have included cost estimates, but the repair and service needs were highlighted more.

Along with Reinvent Albany, the Citizens Budget Commission is also calling for transparency in the price of the assessment and upcoming Capital Plan. While the assessment talks about such expansion projects as the Second Avenue Subway and the Interborough Express, Fauss said she feels full system repairs must be a priority.

She's also concerned about spending overruns on long-term projects that can develop even when costs are laid out in detail. The East Side Access project, bringing the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, saw billions of dollars in cost overruns in 2018. But, Fauss noted that unforeseen circumstances make developing costs estimates harder.

"I think there is some understanding that inflation and factors the MTA can't control," she said, "supply limitations, vendors to do the job; there are things that are out of their control."

In spite of this, Fauss is insistent on at least having a cost estimate for the first five years of the capital plan and needs assessment. Although MTA has implemented cost estimates on projects that had significant cost overruns, she noted it can serve as a benchmark for progress.


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