MTA unveils multi-million dollar cost of LIRR mitigation plan

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A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the East Williston station on the Oyster Bay branch. (Photo by Noah Manskar)
A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the East Williston station on the Oyster Bay branch. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday their mitigation plan will cost $58 million, with most of it going towards buses and accommodating lost revenue.

MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran said at a board meeting that the authority is covering the costs through their $155 million reserve fund.

He also announced plans to achieve over $2.3 billion in savings by 2021, as well as budget surpluses up to 2020, so long as planned fare increases go through.

“That reserve is to offset reduction in revenues, unexpected expenses over budget, or just any other uncertainty that is realized,” Foran said during Wednesday’s crowded public hearing, which had over 61 speakers lined up.

Within the mitigation plan, $18.5 million is projected to go towards the fleet of nearly 200 buses.

Almost $22 million will also be lost in revenue between fare reductions, toll reductions for trucks operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and free subway transfers, according to the MTA.

In that $22 million figure, the LIRR forecasted about $10.2 million in lost revenue from the 25 percent discount offered to anyone traveling via Atlantic Terminal, Hunterspoint Avenue, Long Island City, Nostrand Avenue and East New York.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels also anticipated about $10 million in losses from toll discounts, while MTA New York City Transit expects to lose $1.8 million from free subway transfers.

The ferry services from Glen Cove and Long Island City, which have also operated well under capacity, will cost $5 million. $3 million goes towards LIRR support staff helping commuters navigate through schedule changes and the subways, while $4 million goes towards extra MTA Police coverage.

Amtrak previously said the track repairs are costing between $30 and $40 million.

“You have to think about it this way: If we did nothing, if we just accepted the fact that we had to reduce about 20 percent of ridership coming to Penn Station, think of the catastrophe to the economy of the entire metropolitan area — Long Island in particular,” Lhota told reporters after the meeting, Newsday reported. “Was it a lot of money? Yes. Is it well worth it? Yes.”

Penn Station, which is operated by Amtrak, has been undergoing renovations since July 10 and will do so until Sept. 1 – should everything go according to plan. The construction is focused on three of the station’s 21 tracks and was expected to ripple across the system.

In addition to the buses and ferry service, the MTA added 36 extra train cars and three new trains to accommodate the nearly 10,000 customers to be affected. They also had to redirect and reroute many others.

“We’ve become the victim of Amtrak and what they need to do in Penn Station, and the MTA decided to look at this situation and take it head on,” MTA chairman Joe Lhota said in a previous conference call with reporters.

In the past, MTA officials expressed interest in getting reimbursement from Amtrak through withholding its $46 million subsidy. Amtrak countered there is no legal basis in this and that they should work together to help commuters instead.

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