MTA projects already buried by oversight

By Larry Penner

In May 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed creating the New York State Design and Construction Corporation to provide oversight for all Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital projects worth $50 million or more. This idea was clearly redundant.

One year later, there is little evidence that the NYSDCC has accomplished anything to protect the interests of both riders and taxpayers. The same is true for any benefits obtained by the MTA and Long Island Rail Road from NYSDCC oversight of their capital program.

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration provides over $1.2 billion in capital grants to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, yearly. This is accomplished under the FTA Transit Award Management System (known as “TrAMS”) used to award and manage federal grants. The MTA currently manages an active portfolio of federally funded capital improvement projects and programs in 46 open grants worth over $12 billion in direct USDOT FTA financial assistance.

Both the MTA and FTA have independent engineering consultant firms to supplement in-house staff for oversight. These companies provide both oversight and technical assistance for capital projects. Engineering firms monitor the progress of major capital projects and prepare monthly progress reports.

The FTA also has consulting firms that conduct periodic financial management, procurement system and triennial reviews (to insure compliance with USDOT FTA rules and regulations), along with various civil rights reviews (including compliance with Title VI, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Equal Opportunity Employment, Americans With Disabilities Act, Rail Station, Fixed Bus Route and Paratransit).

These reviews may cover either MTA HQ and/or various MTA operating agencies, including New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Capital Construction (New Starts Second Avenue Subway or East Side Access) and MTA Bus.

They are made available to acting MTA Chairperson Veronique Hakim, MTA HQ staff, MTA board members, MTA agency presidents Michael Horodniceanu, Darryl Irick, Patrick Nowakowski, Joseph Giulietti and Darryl Irick, as well as each MTA operating agency’s chief engineer, FTA senior management teams and in-house project oversight staff.

In many cases, citizens can access these documents or final reports by logging on to the USDOT FTA website.

As part of requirements contained within all master grant agreements, using TrAMS, the MTA provides updated, quarterly financial and milestone progress reports to USDOT FTA on billions of dollars worth of active capital improvement projects and programs.

Additionally, New York State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the NYC Office of Management and Budget and the NYC Independent Budget Office all perform periodic audits of MTA projects and programs.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, as well the state, city and MTA offices of inspector general all perform periodic audits of MTA and LIRR projects and programs.

Governor Cuomo would have been better off using funds creating the New York State Design and Construction Corporation as a down payment against the $5.8 billion he still owes the MTA & LIRR toward fully funding the $32 billion 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.

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