There are always two sides to every story. I don’t have the financial resources to hire an army of public relations people to ghost write columns like New York MTA Chairman Pat Foye has and send them to every media outlet in town. Nevertheless, here’s my take on an alarmist op-ed that recently appeared in the New York Times, re-printed by Railway Age.
Author: Larry Penner
The Amtrak Office of Inspector General just released a report that revealed cost overruns and project delays for the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station New York, currently under construction. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who believes he is the reincarnation of Robert Moses, the “Master Builder,” will not be happy to learn that his promised commitment to open the facility by year-end December 2020 won’t be met.
The Federal Aviation Administration posted the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed LaGuardia Airport AirTrain on Aug. 21. At the end of the day, this may be a fruitless exercise, along with a waste of money and time. The same could be true with the upcoming 45-day public comment period for the DEIS that started on August 21 and ends on Oct. 5, 2020, The FAA may not complete the NEPA process by issuing an environmental NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) finding until 2021. There is no guarantee that this project will advance beyond completion of the NEPA process.
Transit agencies across the nation continue to lobby for a second round of CARES Act COVID-19 funding. Hopes are quickly disappearing, as the Senate has adjourned for the summer with no action. In the interim, you might be curious about how your own local transit agency is spending previously approved funding under open Federal Transit Administration grants, or the status of grant applications for other available annual formula FTA funding that has yet to be approved.
Aug. 9 marked the fourth anniversary of the death of former New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Robert Kiley. Let us not forget him, and those who followed, in spending $128 billion under past multi-year MTA Capital Programs.
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Pat Foye has been consistently outspoken in his criticism of President Trump and the Federal Highway Administration concerning obtaining permission from Washington to begin congestion pricing in Manhattan. Foye and others blame both the President and FHWA for continued delays in advancement of the federal NEPA Environmental Review process. The MTA has been waiting for guidance to determine if congestion pricing implementation will need a less-detailed Environmental Assessment or more complex Environmental Impact Statement.
Who has been minding the mint after learning about the latest New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority example of potential waste, fraud and abuse? It’s Interim MTA New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg, who after only four months on the job revealed that her operating agency has been functioning with an incomplete organization chart.
I’m all in favor of cost effective, well-planned system expansion projects, providing we bring our existing transit assets up to a state of good repair first. But we need to stop wasting millions on transportation feasibility studies for future system expansion projects that may never happen in our lifetime.
There is only $70 million for advancing an environmental study for the $10 billion (estimated) Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel within the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey 2017-2026 Capital Plan. This leaves a $9.930 billion shortfall to complete this freight rail project. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) continues to claim that there is real progress for his favored project. He has championed this as his number one transportation priority for 30 years. But after all that time, project is still stuck in the federal National Environmental Protection Act review process.
There is good news from Washington, D.C. concerning federal support for transportation. The New York City Department of Transportation is a direct recipient of Federal Transit Administration funding on behalf of the Staten Island Ferry.