April 27, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Reconstruction of the L train tunnel from Manhattan to Brooklyn has been completed ahead of schedule, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
The tunnel was damaged during Hurricane Sandy and was in need of extensive repairs. The MTA originally planned to shutter service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 15 to 18 months to revamp it— until Cuomo stepped in with a different plan.
Cuomo toured the tunnel with a team of engineers in January 2019 and came up with a new plan that didn’t require a full shutdown. The new plan would also be completed in less time.
Yesterday, he announced the tunnel repairs were done.
“We rebuilt the tunnel and the tunnel is now done better than before,” Cuomo said at a daily press briefing in Albany yesterday.
The work took 12 months, with L train service reduced on weekends and overnight.
“It opens today — not in 15 months, but actually only in 12 months of a partial shutdown,” Cuomo said Sunday. “So it’s ahead of schedule, it’s under budget and it was never shutdown.”
Great! So now they can roll-back those “Temporary Street Mitigations” right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo proudly announced that work performed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Office of Capital Construction, NYC Transit and private contractors on rehabilitation of the Canarsie L subway line East River Tunnel was completed ahead of schedule and under budget once again illustrates how he continues to ignore past transit history. This project reached what is known as substantial completion and will go into beneficial use. Super Storm Sandy occurred in 2012. You have to ask why it took the MTA eight years later to complete? Today the work is essentially finished. There is always the remaining 1% of odds and ends still outstanding. There is still additional work to do. This includes completion of inspection and acceptance for hundreds of contract punch list items, receipt of asset maintenance plans for project components, followed by release of retainage and final payment to the contractor(s). The final closeout process for a project of this size can average six months to one year before contract(s) closeout. The contract closeout milestone is when a project is really complete.
What Cuomo and the MTA conveniently ignored is why for four years they have been unsuccessful in applying for two old Federal Transit Administration discretionary funded project allocations that would also improve the Canarsie line. On February 3rd, 2020 the FTA published Federal Notice of Available Funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2020. This included the availability of carryover earmark allocations from 2016. They are New York Canarsie Power Improvements $3,200,271 and New York Canarsie Power Improvement Program Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program for $13,121,114. Details may be found under Table 16 – Prior Years Unobligated Section 5309 Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Allocations.
MTA should have previously developed and submitted grant applications to apply for these funds totaling $16,321,385. Four years later, work should have already been completed. Perhaps this work could have been coordinated with the Canarsie Line East River Tunnel project. Sharing the same overnight and weekend track outages along with NYC Transit Force Account employees might have saved both time and money. Why has MTA been unsuccessful in having these funds obligated under approved grants? These funds will eventually lapse and be lost to MTA. They end up returned to the federal treasury and may be reprogrammed for another purpose.
The MTA is in intense competition against transit agencies from other cities and states around the nation. It hurts NYC and the Metro NY area, when the MTA leaves these discretionary dollars on the table year after year. Our Congressional delegation also loses credibility when lobbying for more transit dollars.
What incentive is there for Washington to approve additional discretionary transit dollars, when you don’t follow up, apply for and receive the funding? As each year goes by, the project costs tend to increase. The dollar value of the earmark does not. In the end, taxpayers, commuters and MTA employees end up the losers. With a multi billion and growing shortfall in the MTA $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan, every dollar counts.
(Larry Penner — transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review and approval of billions in grants to the MTA, NYC Transit bus, subway, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road which funded capital bus, subway and commuter rail improvement projects and programs.).