September 16, 2019
Today, the MTA released an 11-page slideshow partially summarizing the details in its 2020-2024 capital plan. To comply with state law, the MTA will have to hold a vote on the complete draft plan at its September 25th Board meeting, which is in seven business days. Reinvent Albany focuses on MTA governance and transparency. From that perspective, the MTA’s release of a slideshow that does not differentiate between core versus expansion projects, lumps together expansion costs and omits large capital projects is troublesome and again raises questions about MTA’s commitment to public transparency.
(The MTA has done much better. The complete 2005 draft plan was released to the public in July, two months before a Board vote.)
We have the following questions:
1. Without the 20-year needs assessment, the public cannot know how much the MTA should be spending to replace very old, but crucial, subway and rail components, like decades old mechanical switches, electrical systems, pumps and fans. When will the needs assessment and full draft capital plan be released?
2. What is the breakdown of core projects versus expansion? The last draft capital plan included 60 pages of itemized projects.
3. Can the MTA effectively manage more than $6.5B a year total in capital spending? (MTA had their best year ever in 2018, when they managed $6.5B for all three active capital plans. MTA spent $4B in 2018 on 2015-2019 capital plan projects.)
4. The slideshow proposes what would be the largest investment in signals for NYCT ever of $7.1B. How fast will the MTA be able to deliver on this commitment given their limited spending capacity?
5. Is it realistic to expect $10B in federal aid? (Under a Democratic president, the federal government contributed $7B to the last capital plan.)
6. Is it realistic to expect the state to provide $3B in direct aid given the state still owes $7.3B in support to the MTA for the 2015-2019 plan?
7. The slideshow of the plan assumes the MTA will borrow another $10B in new debt. How much will this increase the MTA’s debt payments? (Even without including this new borrowing, the MTA forecasts that its debt will increase 31% by 2023 and will cost more than $3.5B/year.)