Monday, September 27, 2010

Delays Mount on Second Avenue Subway

It's been decades since the Second Avenue Subway was first proposed to replace the elevated line that used to run on the avenue. Construction has finally restarted and the plan was to have the first segment open by 2016.

Well, this is the MTA we're talking about, and delays are now pushing the construction completion date into 2018. The costs have also risen by another $420 million. The delays and costs are interrelated - the more delays, the more the project costs.

Despite the delays and problems, a transit watchdog group has given the MTA a B on a report card scoring the project. The MTA got good marks for communicating project updates with the public and for job creation, but poor marks for keeping within its budget.

That's the most troubling aspect of the project; the delays and cost overruns threaten the completion of the project because the MTA lacks the funds to handle its capital expenditures. Unless the local real estate market turns around, the MTA will be short billions in tax revenues. The MTA isn't getting the subsidies from the state or city it used to (neither the state or city is in any better fiscal shape to make those expenditures either).

Yet, this project is critical to alleviating traffic and congestion on the East Side. It has been for 50 years. That hasn't changed - it's time for the MTA to come up with a way to speed construction and stay within its budget.

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