By Mark Hallum

With the mounting transit breakdowns and disasters throughout the city, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the MTA Thursdauy and said he would sign a series of executive orders for vital upgrades to get the agency back on track.

Cuomo spoke at the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, where he had organized an event to draw attention to the contest the state is holding to award $1 million in exchange for an idea to fix the citywide transit woes.

The governor will be challenging newly reappointed MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota to reorganize the agency as well as pouring an additional $1 billion into the MTA’s capital funds.

“The current state of decline is wholly unacceptable. We’re going to do something and we’re going to do something about it now,” Cuomo said. “Today, I am asking Joe Lhota to do a reorganization plan for the MTA in 30 days. Start with a blank piece of paper. There are no givens, there are no sacred cows. Design an organization that can perform the function rather than the organization that exists today, which is a longstanding bureaucracy that has evolved over time.”

Cuomo offered a second challenge to Lhota.

“We should have a review of the capital plan,” Cuomo continued. “The cars, the physical equipement. I would ask Mr. Lhota to get that done in 60 days. Very simple, what do we need, how do we get it, how much does it cost and how do we expedite the entire process?”

Cuomo said he would sign the executive order pertaining to the MTA later Thursday to speed up some of the government procedures such as the transit agency’s procurement process. Cuomo will ask either the state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman or Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to appoint a team to oversee the effort to expedite these objectives.

“It should no longer be a torture exercise to do business with the MTA,” Cuomo said to much applause.

The MTA attributes the issues to signal systems dating back to the construction of the subway in 1904, which would have been engineered in the 19th century. It was estimated that it would take 45 years to fully outfit the entire subway system with the new radio-based signal system, which will allow trains to run closer together. An updated fleet of subway cars and communication systems with riders for train times are also on the list of necessary items.

Cuomo not only called the Tuesday derailment of an A train at the 125th Street station in Harlem a metaphor for the entire system, but also referred to the dysfunction in Penn Station due to poor upkeep by Amtrak as a precursor to what he is now calling a systemwide state of emergency.

In yet another incident, a Port Washington train lost power in Penn Station in the early morning Thursday and was delayed two hours outside the tunnel.

Amtrak announced following the latest power outage it would need an additional two weeks for emergency repairs to eight tracks over the summer. which were originally only supposed to take six weeks.

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