Readers Write: MTA five-year capital plan predictions

Readers Write: MTA five-year capital plan predictions

Friday, Feb. 21st was the last day at work for outgoing NYC Transit Authority President Andy Byford.

It will be interesting to see if the next NYC Transit Authority President will be successful in preserving both funding and implementation of projects and programs championed by Byford’s Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize NYC Transit subway and bus system.

Let’s hope that $19 billion worth of funding support in the current $51 billion MTA 2020 – 2024 five-year capital plan remains in place. We will have to wait and see if the $19 billion balance of funding needed to complete this plan will be approved in the next MTA 2025 – 2029 five-year capital plan.

There will be some clues of what the future holds when the MTA releases the updated MTA 2020 – 2040 twenty-year-long range capital needs plan. It was supposed to be released in December 2019.  Why has the MTA delayed-release for two months? Are they waiting for it to be approved by Governor Cuomo before making it public?

What is the current status for the MTA funding plan to support the $51 billion 2020 – 2024 five-year capital plan?  Have the various anticipated funding sources been secured?  What progress has the MTA made in convincing the Federal Transit Administration to provide up to $3.5 billion in New Starts funding for the Second Avenue Subway Phase II under a full funding grant agreement in 2020?

According to the Federal Transit Administration February 2020 New Starts report for the federal fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2021), the MTA anticipates approval to enter final design and engineering.

This would be followed before the end of 2020 with a full funding grant agreement from FTA. This would provide between two and three-and-a-half billion in federal dollars toward the $6.9 billion total cost for Second Avenue Subway Phase II.

Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill deBlasio are each responsible for contributing $3.5 billion.  What is the current status of their respective contributions?  Are these dollars included in the upcoming proposed New York State (April 1, 2020 – March 30, 2021) and New York City (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) budgets?

Is the implementation of congestion pricing still on schedule with nine-months left to go for the start date of Jan. 1, 2021?

We recently learned that the MTA needs the Federal Highway Administration to complete an environmental review before this can go forward. The MTA still hasn’t received approval from the federal government on its congestion pricing plan.

If approved, NYC would become the first major city in the U.S. to implement a congestion toll to help reduce traffic, cut pollution, and support mass transit.  It will not happen without the Federal Highway Administration making a determination that the plan complies with the National Environmental Policy Act. The highway administration is still awaiting some outstanding information needed from the MTA to complete the review and future approval process.

Details of who will pay have yet to be made public. Elected officials behind the scene continue lobbying for exemptions. Issuing more exemptions will clearly result in less revenue for the MTA.

Why will the MTA Traffic Mobility Review Board, which decides tolling costs for congestion pricing, be meeting behind closed doors to work out these critical details?  This is inconsistent with Gov. Cuomo’s promise to conduct the most open and transparent administration in the history of state government. The MTA Traffic Mobility Review Board is supposed to be made up of one chairperson and five members. Both de Blasio and Cuomo have yet to announce their respective members to the commission. Why are they stalling in making these critical appointments?  The final recommendations for tolling need to be announced before the end of 2020.

Without all of the above being successfully completed, the MTA $51 billion 2020 – 2024 five-year capital plan could end up with a shortfall in the billions. This could result in either reduction in the scope of work or postponement of some capital projects and programs into the next MTA 2025 – 2029 five-year capital plan. Time will tell.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

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