Kat Aaron is an Associate Producer for WNYC, where she is part of Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
MTA Security Program Almost $300 Million Over Budget, Years Overdue
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 11:49 AM
Security upgrades for the MTA are over budget and overdue, according to a new report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Initially budgeted at $591 million, the price tag has ballooned to $883 million. The original target date was June 2014 – right now, in other words. That’s been pushed back to late 2017.
"Although the MTA has made important security improvements, the first phase of its capital program is still not finished, more than twelve years after September 11, 2001,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
The DiNapoli report is just the latest account of the unexpectedly expensive and complicated project, which was begun four governors ago.
Some of the delays and cost overruns are being blamed on Hurricane Sandy, which dumped corrosive salt water on sensitive electronics. But the bulk of the problems came before the storm, which added just $28 million to the total. And the delays themselves have cost the agency money: the MTA lost almost $46 million when the deadline to spend the funds passed before the projects were completed.
Complex site conditions, hardware and software requirements have delayed some ongoing Transit Security Grant Program projects, as did the need to temporarily redirect resources to restore service after storm Sandy. Nonetheless, almost all of this work has been completed, and the last remaining section – electronic security measures in under-river subway tubes – will be completed in March 2015.
The security improvements were planned in three phases. Fourteen of the sixteen projects in phase 1 have been completed – but all of those were finished later than planned. The two outstanding projects both involve “electronic security,” which includes installing more than 3,000 cameras in stations and tunnels. Some are already up and running, though: Half of all riders use stations covered by cameras, according to the MTA.
“The MTA network is much safer and more secure than it was before 9/11,” MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said in a statement, noting that “the MTA’s efforts to harden, protect and improve security for 8.5 million daily transit customers has expanded, even as federal funding has fallen.”