Readers Write: More 3rd track details for MTA to be credible on completion date

MTA Chief Development Officer John Lieber provided insufficient information concerning LIRR Main Line Third Track in his July 11 response to justify promised “3rd Track Work Will Be Done On Time. Count On It.” 

It is impossible for anyone outside of the MTA and LIRR to validate the promise of placing Main Line Third Track in passenger service by December 2022. 

This requires access to review LIRR documents. These items include, but are not limited to a detailed project budget.  This should provide the estimated costs for each of the 50 project components, construction management firms to supplement LIRR Engineers in oversight of 3rd Track Constructors schedule, budget, staff and work, LIRR track employees who provide protection for construction employees working on active track right of ways, LIRR budget and financial staff, LIRR quality assurance and quality control staff (to ensure that 3rd Track Contractors adhere to the contract specifications), substitute bus service during track outages and contingency for unforeseen costs. 

Future unanticipated costs could be due to unforeseen site conditions, inclement weather delaying work and change orders to pay for additional work requested by local communities or various LIRR departments not included in the original base contract. 

A good rule of thumb is allocating 5 percent of your overall project budget to contingency.  How much money was allocated for contingency?

Any savings can be allocated to other future projects. 

Contractors could submit claims for reimbursement above the base contract award any time during the project for additional unanticipated work. 

This could be based upon the LIRR providing insufficient track outages and or track employees) to provide timely and safe access to work sites, along with changes to the agreed upon scope of work contained within the base contract. 

These required the contractor to spend more money than agreed upon the original price. 

A detailed project schedule should reveal the progression of final design and engineering from 30 percent to 100 percent. 

This was a design-build contract (meaning the contractor would advance the design beyond 30 percent and initiate construction in parallel) along with start, interim and beneficial use milestones for each of the 50 project components. 

It would also show the critical path which reveals the relationship between each of the fifty project components. 

Due dates for submission of maintenance plans (to insure that after the assets have surpassed warrant coverage, they can continue remaining safely in transit service to reach the minimum industry useful life standards) for various assets contained within each of the 50 project components along with start and of punch list work and release of final payment to the contractor. If one or more of the overall project critical path milestones should be missed, it could trigger a domino effect impacting other project schedules. 

This could result in further delays to the overall promised project final completion date,  

We need to see the LIRR 2018 annual and anticipated future years schedule for management of capital improvement projects, along with assignment of LIRR employees and track outage plans.  This is to confirm that there are sufficient resources to support Main Line Third Track budget and schedule, along with all the other annual state of good repair, safety projects and programs.

Estimates for construction of the Main Line Third Track have grown from $1.5 billion in 2016, $2 billion in 2017 and currently $2.6 billion. What assurance do we have over time that the final cost upon completion may be even higher?.

Why did MTA and LIRR senior management follow the state Environmental Quality Review Act and not the federal National Environmental Protect Action for Main Line Third Track?   Without compliance with NEPA, the MTA forfeited the opportunity to access federal funding for this project.   

Was it to avoid federal oversight for the project from the environmental review process through construction? 

In 2005, the project at $600 million was following NEPA with the intention of applying for federal construction funding.  In response to both community and political opposition from elected officials, the project was canceled.  

We are still waiting for the MTA/LIRR to share this information.  It would answer these questions that commuters, residents, taxpayers, transit advocates, elected officials and the media to help build project credibility.

Based on past budget and schedule history with other major projects such as LIRR East Side Access,  Second Avenue Subway or Hudson Yards #7 Subway Extension, it is difficult to have faith that the Main Line Third Track will be available for use by December 2022 followed by another six months for completion of project punch list work and final payment to contractors.  

Until this information is made public, how can we believe that this project will be completed on time for $2.6 billion?  We all look forward to the response.  In the interest of transparency, this information should be available. 

The MTA & LIRR should be more forthright to interested parties in explaining what completion of a capital project really requires.  Beneficial use for the riding public of any capital investment is a great interim milestone.  This is generally followed by acceptance of any outstanding maintenance plans for all project component assets, completion of all punch list items followed by the release of the final payment to the contractor. 

Only then is a project really complete.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked in 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.  

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