Earlier this year the MTA released a schedule for starting carryover construction projects from the 2010-2014 and 2015-19 capital plans.
This was prior to the significant growth of the Corona Virus outbreak. This was followed within weeks by Gov. Cuomo’s announcement to suspend all nonessential construction projects.
Initiation of these additional MTA capital projects are slated to begin years in both 2020 and 2021. They have promised to commit $6.5 billion worth of prior planned capital program work in 2020 and $2.3 billion in 2021.
This is supposed to complete the initiation of all capital projects and programs from the $29 billion 2010-2014 and $32 billion 2015-2019 capital plans. How they will coordinate management for this $8.8 billion worth of old capital projects with those from the new $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Capital Plan?
All of the previously funded work (that is not underway) will have to be integrated with the current 2020 and future Annual Track Outage, Force Account (in house employees), Routine Maintenance and Procurement Strategy plans for each MTA agency.
This includes NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Rail, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Capital Construction and MTA Bus. It is necessary in order to support each agency’s respective capital programs.
The plans provide a foundation to ensure projects will be initiated and completed on time. All of this is taking place while the MTA is undergoing a significant internal reorganization and laying off 2,700 employees agency-wide.
This is part of their overly optimistic belief that they can find $2.7 billion in savings. It is the part of the same old playbook promised by previous generations of MTA Chairmen, MTA Board members and others going back generations.
It never actually happens. These concerns and questions still deserve to be answered in detail. Without reading the fine print, it is difficult to believe that the MTA can successfully manage investing $8.8 billion in old and $51 billion in new funding for a total of $59.8 billion between 2020 and 2024. In the middle of a multi-billion dollar financial crisis, why does the MTA continue hiring outside consultants?
The latest waste of scarce MTA funds is a contract for $91 million, bringing on board even more consultants. Their task is to assist the MTA’s Transformation Office to decide how to cut 2,700 jobs.
One hundred twenty consultants will decide the fate of 2,700 current MTA employees. That comes to one consultant recommending the fate of 270 employees. Laying off workers, while at the same time significantly increasing the number and dollar value of capital projects and programs defies logic.
The numbers just don’t add up. MTA HQ, along with each operating agency including NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus and MTA Capital Construction has a Human Resources Office, along with various legal. procurement, engineering, fiscal and other department directors.
Why doesn’t the MTA assign this work to in-house resources already available? Or is this a lack of confidence in current management to make these decisions?
There are better ways to spend $91 million that would be of benefit to the five million daily MTA commuters. Every dollar must be spent prudently.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.