Report: NYMTA Suspends Contracts for Transit Upgrades as Congestion Pricing Lawsuits Loom

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor, Railway Age
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Courtesy of NYMTA

NEW YORK CITY - The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has suspended the issuing of new construction contracts for major transit upgrades, “as lawsuits that seek to block congestion pricing work their way through the courts,” according to a Crain’s New York Business report.

According to the MTA, congestion pricing is set to raise $15 billion for subway, buses and commuter rail projects, “but multiple legal challenges have delayed the launch date and jeopardized revenue to fund critical infrastructure work,” Crain’s reports. The result, according to the report, “is a pause on projects to improve the city’s mass transit: an expansion of the Second Avenue subway, upgrades to signals for more reliable subway service, disability-friendly upgrades and other initiatives.”

“Due to this ongoing uncertainty, while litigation is pending, we will not be issuing any new construction contract solicitations,” wrote MTA Construction and Development President Jamie Torres-Springer, in a Feb. 14 letter to contractors obtained by Crain’s. “[There will be] limited exceptions for emergency work, small business mentoring contracts, and small projects with dedicated Federal funding. We will only initiate procurements we expect to be able to award.”

Congestion pricing, Crain’s reports, “represents the largest single funding source for the MTA’s 2020-24 capital construction plan, which is investing $51.5 billion throughout the authority’s networks.”

The MTA’s decision to halt new construction contracts stands to create “ripple effects that hurt our economy,” said Regional Plan Association Executive Vice President Kate Slevin, according to the report.

“This is the real-world consequence of the congestion pricing lawsuits and delays in the implementation of the program,” said Slevin. “If projects are pushed back people have less work and so the implications are beyond just the riding public and to the broader economy.”

According to the Crain’s report, Torres-Springer’s letter noted that “certain smaller projects financed with federal funds can move forward, but congestion pricing delays are poised to affect large, federally backed projects that require MTA matching funds. The Second Avenue subway expansion is among them.”

The MTA, Crain’s reports, has already delayed subway signal modernizing work along the A and C lines in Brooklyn, but Torres-Springer’s Feb. 14 letter “broadens the disruptions.”

“We’ve arrived at the point where if the money doesn’t flow, work is stopped,” said Reinvent Albany Senior Policy Advisor Rachael Fauss, according to the report.

Once operational, congestion tolls imposed upon on motorists entering Manhattan below 60th Street are “expected to bring in $1 billion a year that the MTA will bond against to finance $15 billion for infrastructure projects,” according to the report. The figure, Crain’s reports, represents 27% of the current capital plan’s funds.

According to the report, the tolling plan is expected to launch in June, after several years of delay. The pending lawsuits, including challenges filed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Staten Island Borough President Vito Fosella and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, “have delayed the implementation by at least a month and threaten to further upend the schedule.”

“The MTA has a new capital plan coming and it means that things might get rolled over and the whole thing will be delayed,” said Fauss, according to the report. “It’s worth thinking about who really is suffering here, and its riders because we’re continuing to ride on old trains on old tracks and not getting the basic stuff we need fixed.”

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