MTA Committee Approves New Contracts Worth $66 Million for Second Avenue Subway

The MTA says it will spend another $66 million to speed up construction work on the Second Avenue subway — an admission that its timetable for opening the long-delayed project was again in jeopardy, as NY1’s Jose Martinez reports.

The city’s biggest subway extension in decades has been taking shape below Second Avenue for years – and talked about for nearly a century.

But with the December deadline for its opening drawing ever closer, many residents along the route are skeptical they’ll be riding the new Second Avenue subway anytime soon.

“Maybe not in my lifetime,” said one straphanger.

“I’ve watched this being built,” said another. “It goes to nowhere. The extensions won’t be done for another 20 years. This is a boondoggle.”

On Monday, there was more skepticism, as the MTA said it will spend another $66 million to accelerate the work in hopes of meeting the December deadline.

“The acceleration agreements will accelerate the completion of critical activities necessary to commence pre-revenue testing and training by September 1, 2016,” said MTA spokesman David Cannon. “And revenue service in December 2016.”

The plan is for contractors to work longer shifts, multiple shifts and on weekends to complete the project, which will bring subway service to 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets along second avenue.

Upper East Side residents aren’t the only ones who remain skeptical about the project opening on time. On Monday, officials here at MTA headquarters in Lower Manhattan heard from their own independent engineering consultant, who said that the project remains a “moderate risk” of opening with a delay.

The Federal Transit Administration has also disputed the MTA’s timeline — warning it’s possible the line might not open until 2018.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign says such skepticism is well-deserved.

“The Transit Authority and the Second Avenue Subway are famous for false starts,” Russianoff said. “They don’t want also to be famous for a false finish.”

But the General Contractors Association expressed faith in the new effort to fast track the work.

“Accelerating construction completion will give the MTA the time they need so that Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway opens by year end,” the association said in a statement.

Riders should know soon enough how it’s going. The MTA is promising monthly progress reports.

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Amtrak Hits Backhoe, Derails South Of Philadelphia, Killing 2

An Amtrak train heading from New York to Savannah, Ga., struck a piece of construction equipment and derailed just south of Philadelphia, Amtrak says.

Two people died in the crash, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency authorities said at a press conference; neither were passengers or crew on the train. PEMA spokeswoman Ruth Miller says the two people who died were “in, on or near the backhoe that was struck.”

Thirty-five passengers were hospitalized with non-life-threatening conditions.

Northeast Corridor service between Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia was suspended for several hours.

Amtrak says the accident was caused when train 89 hit a backhoe on the tracks, derailing the lead engine. The railroad service says approximately 341 passengers and seven crew members were on board at the time.

Amtrak has established an emergency hotline; anyone with questions about friends or family who were on train 89 can call 800-532-9101.

Federal Railroad Administration investigators are on the scene, and The National Transportation Safety Board is en route.

Virginia: Lessons to learn on New York’s transportation

IT’S TRUE that you can’t compare Hampton Roads’ rail system to New York City’s transportation network of rail, light rail, tunnels and bridges, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it — the good and bad.

In the past 15 years New York City’s rail system has incorporated private elements in its offerings. Most folks don’t realize that the city has light rail, an eight-mile system called AirTrain that opened in 2003 and connects the Long Island Railroad Jamaica station in Queens and the Howard Beach subway station in Brooklyn to JFK airport.

The system was built over one of the most heavily trafficked routes in the city, including the Van Wyck Expressway. It charges a separate fare almost twice the subway and bus fares and is run by Bombardier for the Port Authority.

When MetroCard was introduced in the late 1990s, delivery and customer service were outsourced for the almost half-billion dollars in sales eventually generated by local merchants that resold MetroCard. This made it more convenient for the public to buy and much less expensive for NYC transit to service and deliver.

When the MetroCard is eventually replaced with a smart card, NYC transit will partner with a bank or credit-card company to reap even larger savings. Financially sound transportation projects are still capable of attracting private funding, just like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel did in Virginia Beach. NASA, too, realizes that private enterprise is an important part of future space exploration.

For Virginia Beach, light rail connections to important destinations such as military centers are logical. Connecting to the bases could also help prevent future loss of military support for the area since critical infrastructure that can be used for other purposes would already be in place. In the event that we lose military support, having light rail to the base and port areas would make it easier to attract private industry to those locations.

Because these destinations aren’t the line’s first connections, which have the biggest return on investment financially and in congestion relief, the city will have a tougher time approaching the taxpayers if it wants to expand light rail.

Politicians tell us the base connections are planned for the future, but that doesn’t mean they will happen any time soon. Consider New York City’s Second Avenue subway line. City and state politicians promised it when they took down the Third Avenue elevated line, most of which disappeared in 1955, but budget problems and politics always got in the way. During the past 60 years, with the Third Avenue line gone, the Lexington Avenue line has been one of the most crowded subway routes in the city. Only in the past 10 years has the city seen real progress on the Second Avenue subway, with a small portion of it, between 96th and 63rd streets, set to open next year.

In Virginia, a third crossing is needed across the Hampton Roads harbor, but I disagree with the idea that the current crossing should not be tolled. In New York City, the tolls on the Midtown and Battery tunnels are higher than necessary because they subsidize the free crossing on the East River bridges. The East River bridges have exponentially higher maintenance costs and are well past life expectancy. It would be better if the bridges were tolled so the proceeds could help finance the construction of tunnels with dedicated rail and bus lanes for HOV use during rush hours.

After all, the goal is to dissuade car use and encourage the use of public transportation. Nothing is free, and if there isn’t some cost associated with it, it’s not appreciated and almost always abused. Without tolls at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, we will wait decades for a solution while congestion is exacerbated.

Members of the Virginia Beach City Council should know that opponents of the current light-rail plan will not support them in November. If the politicians in question vote their conscience, re-election be damned, good for them. The process is called democracy.

I’m a proponent of public transportation, not wasting taxpayer money.

By John Sparrow, former director for MetroCard retail sales in New York City, lives in Virginia Beach.

Is the 2016 Election Already Being Stripped & Flipped?

Disturbing signs of the time-tested “Strip and Flip” strategy for stealing elections have already surfaced in 2016. Will they ultimately decide the outcome, as they have in too many recent elections?

The core approach is to STRIP citizens of their voting rights, then FLIP the electronic vote count if that’s not enough to guarantee a win for the corporate 1%. (Listen to a one-hour discussion with us, Brent Blackwelder, and Randy Hayes.)

Historically, “stripping” has been based on race. It’s rooted in the divide-and-conquer strategies of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Today it centers on racist demands for photo ID and other scams designed to prevent blacks, Hispanics, the young, and the poor from voting.

“Flipping” is related to electronic voting machines, on which the vast majority of Americans will vote this fall. Nearly all these machines were bought with money from the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which came after the theft of the 2000 presidential election. Virtually all these machines are 10 years old or more, and can easily be hacked. Swing states Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Arizona, among others, have GOP governors and, except for Florida, secretaries of state who can easily flip the vote counts, once they are cast, without accountability or detection. Also, private partisan voting machine companies have unlimited access to the electronic poll books, voting machines, and central tabulators.

Those who dismiss such warnings as “conspiracy theory” might confront this simple question: “How will the electronic vote count in the 2016 election be verified?”

The answer is simple: “It can’t be.” The vote count in 2016 for the offices of President, US Congress, governorships, state legislatures, county commissioners, dog catchers, and thousands of others will come through electronic black boxes. The veracity of the outcomes will vary from state to state based on the whims and interests of those in charge of the electronic tallies.

In the meantime, we have already seen deeply disturbing signs of the “strip and flip” scam in the 2016 primaries. All, of course, have been to the detriment of the Bernie Sanders campaign:

    • Despite the claim that Hillary Clinton “won” the Iowa and Nevada caucuses, there’s clear evidence Bernie was the rightful winner in both states. In Iowa, Clinton’s “victory” apparently turned on six coin tosses, all of which she allegedly won.

 

    • There’s clear evidence that Bernie actually won the Massachusetts primary, which the corporate media and official vote count gave to Hillary. Analyst Richard Charnin has examined pre-election polls and post-election exit polls, both showing Bernie substantially ahead of Clinton prior to the voting. In a phenomenon we have seen elsewhere (most notably as George W. Bush “beat” John Kerry in New Mexico 2004), Bernie won all the precincts with hand-counted paper ballots but lost all the ones with electronic voting machines. Exit polls significantly “outside the statistical margin of error” are the international gold standard for determining election fraud. If the U.S. held the same standards as the European Union, the government would be conducting investigations for election fraud not only in the Massachusetts primary but also in the Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio primaries.

 

  • In Arizona we saw a re-run of Ohio 2004, where left-leaning Democratic urban areas were stripped of precincts and short-changed on voting machines and back-up paper ballots, resulting in long lines and thousands of citizens being deprived of their vote. African-Americans in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, and Cincinnati waited up to seven hours and more to vote in 2004, causing mass disenfranchisement that helped give Bush Ohio and a second term in the White House. In Arizona this year, thousands of citizens were also robbed of their vote due to the elimination of precincts, machine shortages, and the failure to provide back-up paper ballots. Many were handed provisional ballots which regularly are discarded and never counted.

According to investigative reporter Greg Palast, hundreds of thousands of potential voters are now being stripped from the registration rolls in key swing states, including Ohio. Palast, whose work is strictly non-partisan, broke the major stories in Florida 2000 showing Gov. Jeb Bush had disenfranchised tens of thousands of registered voters (in an election decided by 537 votes) using a computer program allegedly showing them to be ex-felons (they weren’t). This year Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, using a computer program called Interstate Crosscheck, is doing the dirty work. This program allegedly tracks down people who have voted twice (none actually have) and denies them their right to vote. Palast says the names indicate a heavily African-American and Hispanic constituency being disenfranchised, which would have a significant impact on the presidential race, but also on Congress, governorships, state legislatures and more.

As reported by Brad Friedman and others, a wide range of irregularities in other states have also dogged this primary season. They could well be the determining factor in who gets the nomination in both major parties. Official reports have now surfaced in Wisconsin of “problems” with poll books and other electronic apparatus in the lead-in to that states’s critical primary.

A recent study by Harvard and the University of Sydney, Australia, found that the United States had the “worst elections of any long-established democracy.” The U.S. ranked 47th out of the 47 long-term democratic nations.

Something serious must be done. Without radical action, these carefully engineered precinct eliminations, ballot and machine shortages, mass disenfranchisements, and too much more will not only determine who wins the presidency this fall, but also who controls the Congress, numerous governorships, and state legislatures and the whole gamut of elective offices around the country.

In the long run, only universal automatic voter registration, a four-day national holiday for voting, universal hand-counted paper ballots and other reforms will guarantee us a fair and reliable vote count. Posted at www.freepress.org, we call it the “Ohio Plan.”

But none of that will be in place this fall. In our coming articles, and in two weeks with our PowerPoint compendium, THE STRIP AND FLIP SELECTION OF 2016, we will discuss what we can do in the interim.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News

TIGER’s eighth round to fund $500 million in grants

Lions and tigers and logistics, oh my! How do you move a circus?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today that $500 million will be made available for transportation projects under an eighth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program.


Like the first seven rounds, the fiscal-year 2016 TIGER discretionary grants will fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects determined to have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region.

“Every year, we see hundreds of compelling applications that have the potential to improve people’s access to economic opportunities, make people safer, and improve their well-being.” said Foxx in a press release. “I am proud that for seven rounds, TIGER has been able to make a valuable contribution to improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure, and I look forward to this year’s competition.”

The program will focus on capital projects that improve existing conditions, generate economic development and improve access to transportation in urban and rural communities.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 does not provide dedicated funding for the planning, preparation, or design of capital projects; however, those activities may be funded as part of an overall construction project, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) officials said.

Since 2009, the TIGER program has provided nearly $4.6 billion to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Demand for the grants is high: The USDOT has processed more than 6,700 applications requesting more than $134 billion for transportation projects.

Crunch Storm Back To Down The Comets

In a back and forth contest that saw three lead changes and two ties, the Syracuse Crunch defeated the Utica Comets 7-3, after pulling away in the third period to tie the Galaxy Cup series at 4-4.

T.J. Hensick (0-2-2) and Jon Landry (0-2-2) had multi point games for the Comets, while Joseph LaBate (1-0-1), Carter Bancks (1-0-1), and Alex Friesen (1-0-1) had the Utica goals.

The Comets kicked off the game’s scoring when they took advantage of a power play opportunity 9:02 into the first period. Jon Landry sent a pass to Hensick, who was camped on the right side of the ice. Hensick fired a wrist shot that zipped over the right shoulder of Gudlevskis after be redirected by Joseph LaBate.

The second period saw an uptick in action as things got physical, and the team’s combined for five goals in an 8:39 stretch.

Bancks extended the Utica lead to 2-0, 5:11 into the second period. Hensick threw a pass across the crease to Bancks, who was stationed on the goal line. Bancks squeezed a shot through the legs of Gudlevskis for his 14th goal of the season.

The Comets appeared to have all the momentum, and a power play, after Luke Witkowski viciously jumped an unsuspecting Jon Landry and found himself in the sin bin for 12 minutes. However, appearances can be deceiving and the game’s momentum took a giant swing in the visitor’s favor.

While short-handed, the Crunch cut the Comets lead to 2-1. After an offensive miscue on the power play, Matthew Peca sent a pass to Joel Vermin who got free on a breakaway and fired a shot past Joe Cannata.

Syracuse tied it just two minutes later on a goal when Cameron Darcy stole the puck from Joe Cannata behind the net and deposited it into the vacated net.

Just 58 seconds later, the Crunch took their first lead of the night. Syracuse worked the puck around in the Comets zone before Vermin rifled a shot that beat the stick of Cannata.

Three minutes after that the Comets stormed right back and knotted the game 3-3. On the power play, Grenier one-timed a shot on net that was turned aside by Gudlevskis, but Friesen was there to clean it up off the rebound to tie the game at three.

Syracuse dominated the third period to the tune of 16-5 in shots, and 4-0 in goals. Adam Erne got the visiting team going after he streaked down the slot and redirected Daniel Walcott’s centering feed past Cannata.

1:38 later Henri Ikonen extended the Crunch lead to 5-3 when he finished off a Tanner Richard pass as Cannata was pushed to the back of the net. Jeff Tambellini added two more to the Crunch’s tally, one being an empty net goal, to cap off the game’s scoring.

Utica finished with 28 shots on goal, and the Crunch had 31 shots. Cannata had 24 saves for Utica, and Gudlevskis saved 25 shots for Syracuse.

With the loss, Utica fell to 35-24-7-4, while the crunch improve to 31-27-10-3.

The Comets return to The AUD for a tilt against the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday night. Puck drop is slated for 7pm.