Readers Write: Leave the MTA planning to the transportation experts

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that the work on the Canarsie L subway line tunnel scheduled to start in April lacked critical detail.  You have to ask if “Is the MTA staffed by idiots?” (Editorial — Jan. 11) applies to Cuomo and his staff.  How much longer will it take for New York City Transit and private contractors to complete work with only overnight and weekend closures than the previously announced 15-month, 24/7 project duration? 

MTA and NYCDOT have already spent millions in planning, environmental review, design and engineering, assuming a 15 month, 24/7 shut down.  They normally would perform value engineering.  This looks at alternative methods for performing work, which would result in cost savings.

This work was performed by experienced engineers and engineering consulting firms. They have firsthand knowledge of how the nation’s largest subway system works.  Cuomo’s outside experts came from the Columbia and Cornell University world of academia. 

Both the MTA and NYC Transit President Andy Byford, who previously ran transit systems in London and Toronto, would have discovered it under value engineering.    

The mostcost-effectivee time to do work is when contractors have 24/7 access. The contractor is on site full-time, mobilized with a staging area for workers, supplies and debris removal. There is little need for NYC Transit to provide expensive “force account” (track employees) flagging protection for construction workers. 

Third rail power is turned off with no active subway service. Forcing contractors to mobilize workers prior to tunnel access evenings and weekends increases project costs. 

So does having to stop work prior to resuming of subway service.  It will cost millions more to provide protection for private construction employees.

Several hundred million was previously provided under a Federal Transit Administration Super Storm Sandy Recovery and Resiliency grant in 2016. 

Will the MTA now 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 are 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 the 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.  Has the MTA met with FTA and its own independent engineering oversight consulting firm to provide a presentation on the new “design” changes?    

MTA HQ and NYC Transit looked like deer caught in headlights by Cuomo’s announcement.  Was it designed to ingratiate himself with voters rather than serve the long-term interests of riders?  Cuomo’s Jan. 15th MTA emergency board meeting was just the opening act. MTA HQ, board members, NYC Transit, NYCDOT managers and engineers need far more time to review and comment on this “new design” and budget impacts. 

Ditto for both the MTA and FTA independent oversight engineering consulting firms.  Both prepare monthly reports.  What will the the final project budget impact be? 

The winning contractors Judlau and TC Electric $477 million bid was based on the original scope of work and design MTA proposal.  This included 24/7 site access to tunnels with no active subway. 

This contract will have to be renegotiated. Contractors have the basis to request additional reimbursement in the millions. These added costs will be greater than credits given the contractor for deletion of work as a result of the new design. 

Contractors claims for additional financial reimbursement can be based upon delay claims due to limited site access and change orders for design and work scope changes to the original contract. 

Who covers costs for materials ordered by the contractor in preparation for initiation of work in April that may now not be needed?  How will the MTA find additional funding to supplement federal funding? 

Cuomo attempts to portray himself as the second coming of the late President Franklin Roosevelt and master builder Robert Moses.  He is not an engineer, transportation expert or daily commuter. 

Cuomo does excel at photo ops when walking the tracks without wearing either a safety vest or hardhat as required by Federal Rail Road Administration.  I doubt he is ever taken and passed the standard FRA safety training course like MTA employees or has used a Metro Card like commuters.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(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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