New York City Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal, Ydaniis Rogriguez and others now want the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to set up another commission to look into why capital projects cost so much.
This would be a waste of time and money. The issue has been previously periodically studied for decades.
Besides the MTA, both the city and state comptrollers, NYC Office of Management and Budget, NYC Independent Budget Commission and others have conducted either studies or audits on this issue.
Locally, MTA union work rules sometimes prevent contracting out work to the private sector.
Third party contractors require MTA New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and other operating agency Force Account (their own employees) to provide both supervision and protection when private contractors work on or adjacent to active right of way track.
Are excessive numbers of MTA supervisory or force account employees assigned adding to costs?
On the federal level, there are Federal Transit Administration “Buy America” requirements. They continue to play a role in the ability of the MTA to both speed up capital projects and contain cost growth.
Second is the Davis Bacon requirement of paying prevailing wages.
Third, is the “Arts in Transit 1 percent expenditure requirement.
Fourth is U.S. Cargo preference requirement for private companies to use only American vessels when shipping product from abroad to USA.
Is the Federal Transit Administration in a position to waive any of these requirements for transit projects?
Anyone in the transit industry knows that compliance with federal Buy America rules and regulations frequently adds both time and cost to a project.
Second Avenue subway may have been a good example of how federal requirements added to costs resulting in a final price tag of $4.6 billion.
You can count on one hand the number of Buy America waivers issued by U.S. DOT FTA to transit agencies in recent years. T
his impacts the MTA’s ability get the best bang for the buck when spending over $6.3 billion in direct federal formula grant funds, potentially an additional $1.5 billion more in competitive discretionary, New Starts and Hurricane Sandy relief/resiliency dollars under the MTA $32 billion 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Program.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office)