MTA draws double-barreled fire from Cuomo and Schumer

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New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority took political fire from both state and federal fronts as the MTA's board discussed its fiscal 2019 operating budget.

The MTA, one of the largest municipal issuers with roughly $40 billion in debt, expects to turn to Albany and Washington for increased capital funding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he would order a "second look" at the planned shutdown of the L subway train, necessary for the MTA to repair Hurricane Sandy-related damage to the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

He plans a late-night tour with his own team of inspectors.

The shutdown is scheduled to last 15 months, beginning in April. It will affect more than 225,000 commuters and has triggered discussions between city officials and the MTA over alternative transportation such as buses, bicycles and ferries.

"I can’t tell you the number of people in Brooklyn who have come up to me and looked me in the eye and said are you sure there’s nothing else that can be done, that there’s nothing that can be done to shorten this?" Cuomo said on New York public radio station WNYC.

Cuomo, a Democrat elected to a third four-year term last month, appoints a plurality of members on the board of the MTA, which operates the city's subways and buses, Metro-North and Long Island commuter railroads, and several intraborough bridges and tunnels.

Separately, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the MTA to complete Positive Train Control technology for Metro-North and Long Island railroads. The system is designed to prevent accidents such as the December 2013 derailment near Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx that killed four people, injured 61 others and caused an estimated $9 million worth of damage.

The MTA is near its Dec. 31 deadline for PTC that Congress imposed.

“Right now, it looks like two things will happen here in New York on Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m.: the Times Square Ball will drop to ring in the New Year and LIRR and Metro-North will have dropped the ball to fully install positive train control by this year—and the latter is nothing to celebrate," Schumer told reporters at Grand Central Terminal.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan, in a response, said Metro-North and the LIRR have met all federal PTC requirements for 2018.

"Nationwide, we are in line with the majority of our peer commuter railroads' PTC implementation timelines," Donovan said.

"We expect to complete our systemwide roll-out in advance of the two additional years we've qualified for under [Federal Railroad Administration] rules. Metro-North and the LIRR are extremely safe ways to travel in New York, and our work implementing positive train control will only make them safer.”

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