Readers Write: Liu will represent city, suburban riders well on review board

Why has Gov. Andrew Cuomo not approved of state Senate Democrat Majority Leader Andrea Steward Cousin’s selection of John Liu as her voting representative to the four-member Metropolitan Transportation Authority Albany based Capital Program Review Board? 

This is a critical time as they have to review and approve the MTA $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan before December 31st.  

Some believe that commuters from Long Island would have been better represented if the voting representative came from either Nassau or Suffolk County.  They overlook that state Sen. Liu represents thousands of constituents who use the Long Island Rail Road Port Washington branch from various stations in his northeast Queens district bordering Nassau County.  

There are thousands of reverse commuters from New York City.  Their numbers are growing and will increase more when $2.6 billion Main Line Third Track and $11.2 billion East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal come online December 2022. They ride the LIRR to jobs, colleges, hospitals, shopping and entertainment venues in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.  

Let us not build walls between New York City and our suburban counties, when it comes to public transportation and LIRR. 

NYC, Nassau and Suffolk County LIRR commuters all desire more frequent, safe and reliable service.  We all want LIRR capital improvement, maintenance projects and programs completed on time and within budget.  

I live in Great Neck and board at the LIRR Little Neck Station. I’ve gotten to know Sen. Liu over the years and believe he will represent the interests of all LIRR commuters, regardless of city or suburban residence.

Commuters, transportation advocates, taxpayers and elected officials have good reason to be concerned about how realistic the MTA $51 Billion Five Year 2020-2024 Capital Program Plan is?   

The devil is in the details, which the MTA has been unwilling to share with anyone outside of their 236-page proposed prospectus supporting this funding request.  How can the Albany MTA Capital Program Review Board possibly approve this proposal without sufficient information? 

Too many projects contained in this new Capital Plan are still in the conceptual planning stage.  Cost estimates can easily change. Few project environmental reviews have been completed. 

Will the environmental review process follow the State Environmental Quality Uniform Act or National Environmental Protect Act?   

Going through the NEPA process is mandatory if the MTA wishes to be eligible for Federal Transit Administration funding. Cost estimates for each project contained in this new Capital Plan will have to be refined as progress proceeds beyond the planning and environmental phases into final design and engineering.

History has shown that estimated costs for construction usually trend upwards as projects mature toward completion of final design. Progression of final design refines the detailed scope of work necessary to support construction.  Costs would be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the construction phase.

The anticipated final potential cost can never be known until reaching beneficial use, acceptance of maintenance manuals for the physical assets, inspection and acceptance, completion of all contract punch list items followed by release of retainage and final payment to the vendor(s).  

How wlll the MTA be able to integrate management for billions in active capital projects from the current 2015-2019 Capital Plan into 2020 and beyond?  Many will carry over into the next Five Year Plan. 

All of this old work will have to be integrated with future annual Track Outage, Force Account (in house employees), Routine Maintenance and Procurement Strategy plans starting in 2020 forward for each MTA agency including New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Capital Construction and MTA Bus. 

This is necessary to support each agency’s respective capital programs.  These concerns and questions deserve to be answered in detail before we invest a record $51 Billion.  We need state Sen. John Liu to become one of four voting members of the Albany MTA Capital Program Review Board to help find these answers.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer, advocate and LIRR commuter since 1976 who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. 


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