Readers Write: MTA’s Mineola project blew the deadline

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Readers Write: MTA’s Mineola project blew the deadline

There was more to “Pereira slams Newsday article on Third Track” in your recent  issue. The later story, “MTA paid $1.7M for Mineola soccer field, other projects to win Third Track support, records show,” appeared in the Sunday, March 24, edition of Newsday.

Contrary to what was contained in Newsday, the project was not really completed on time and within budget as announced by Gov. Hochul, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and Acting LIRR President Catherine Renaldi in October 2022.  We never learned what happened to the so called $100 million in savings that reduced the cost from $2.6 billion to $2.5 billion. How were these dollars reprogrammed to other projects within the MTA’s $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Program.

There was still outstanding work remaining. At the Westbury Station, this includes renovation of the station building, both pedestrian overpasses, some elevators, and the south parking lot. There was also remaining work at other stations and landscaping that would not be completed until Spring 2023.  In addition, there was also the need to complete 100% of all contract punch list items (to insure the contractors built the asset to meet design and engineering contract specifications), receipt of all asset maintenance manuals, payments for outstanding bills, and release of contract retainage to contractors. Only then was the project really complete

In 2005, the project was following the federal National Environmental Protection Act with the intention of applying to the Federal Transit Administration for construction funding. In response to both community and political opposition from local elected officials, the project was canceled by that generation’s MTA & LIRR Management team.

In 2016 the Third Track Environmental Impact Statement to support the project was in compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQUA). Without compliance with NEPA, the MTA forfeited the opportunity to access FTA or Federal Highway Administration funding.

Funding for the project primarily came from a $3 billion MTA 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Program Amendment.  This action increased the MTA agency budget from $29 billion to $32 billion. They are paid for by adding $1.6 billion in long-term MTA debt buried on the operating side of the budget.  None acknowledged that $100 million in savings doesn’t account for millions in annual debt service payments over the years to come to cover the cost of borrowing money for financing this project in the first place.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Larry Penner  is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management.

 
 

 

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