In its Twenty-Year Capital Needs Assessment released last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) identifies $105 billion in critical capital projects needed between 2015-2034. These investments would maintain a state of good repair, respond to a growing and diversifying ridership, and begin to address the challenges posed by future severe weather events.
The Assessment outlines the MTA’s spending plans for the next four five-year capital program cycles. The 2015-2019 program, which begins in 2015 but must be funded by the State Legislature next year, shows $26 billion in new needs.
The MTA’s assessment also proposes a host of system expansion and enhancement projects to deal with rapidly growing ridership and address the changing commuter patterns of New Yorkers, who are bypassing Manhattan’s central business districts in increasing numbers. These include reactivating unused rights-of-way in Staten Island and Queens, completing the Second Avenue Subway, creating Penn Station Access for Metro North, as well as several other lower-cost alternatives to improve existing lines. However, none of these projects are included in the funding request.
The Assessment instead focuses on maintaining a state of good repair for the system’s core infrastructure.
For example, New York City Transit, the operator of the subway network and much of the bus system, forecasts a need for $68 billion over twenty years, $16 billion in the 2015-2019 program alone, much of it to upgrade aging signal systems, allowing the MTA to move several lines to more efficient communications based train control systems. Substantial funding also goes to station improvements and replacement of aging subway cars and buses.
Noting that its budget request is less than prior 20-year forecasts, NYCT said it was “recognizing fiscal realities.” Moreover, the request “excludes investments in new routes and extensions.”
Long Island Rail Road – the MTA agency with the second largest capital plan – proposes $13.4 billion in new needs over the next twenty years, including $3.5 billion in the 2015-19 cycle. Much of this program is dedicated to maximizing the benefits of the East Side Access project.
The MTA’s Metro North Railroad seeks $8.9 billion over 20 years, including $3.4 billion in the coming five-year plan. MTA Bridges and Tunnels estimates a need of $12 billion over twenty years ($2.4 billion in 2015-2019), with an emphasis on improving toll plazas to permit All-Electronic Tolling to speed toll processing at all of its facilities.
The Assessment notes that Superstorm Sandy and preparations for future severe weather events will have a multi-billion dollar impact on the MTA’s capital program. The MTA expects to receive $4.5 billion in federal storm aid for immediate repairs but does not quantify the cost of additional resiliency improvements in the document.
Reliable funding clearly remains the most significant challenge for the MTA. Apart from federal formula funds and small State and City capital contributions, which together average about $8-10 billion over five years, there are no other identified revenue sources.
Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson said the Assessment reflects the diversity of the mass transit system’s ridership and needs: “The MTA’s Needs Assessment clearly states the minimum funding needed to maintain its transit network at a baseline state of good repair and to accommodate the eight million plus commuters who rely on the MTA every day.
“But the document also shows that the MTA’s needs are far greater,” Mr. Anderson added. “In an era in which ridership is reaching all-time highs, the MTA is proposing modest solutions while critical investments are left unfunded.”
To date, the State Legislature and the Cuomo administration have not begun formal discussions on a plan to fund the MTA’s capital program. The Building Congress will aggressively advocate the importance of fully funding the MTA’s next plan with the Governor and individual legislators during the coming legislative session. Multiple priorities, including rebuilding after Sandy, responding to population change and growth, and expanding the system to prepare for future economic and job growth are imperative to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.
What you can do:
Contact Governor Andrew Cuomo and tell him that funding the MTA 2015-2019 Capital Program must be a top priority for 2014.
Contact your State Senator and Assembly Member to let them know that the Legislature must identify and approve adequate funding for the next five year Capital Program.