MTA Reexamines Management in East Side Access, Metro-North

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
January 31, 2014 Updated: January 31, 2014

NEW YORK—Officials are blaming delays in the East Side Access project on its complexity and hope that a change of management can expedite the construction.

The MTA on Monday presented estimates for a later deadline and a bigger budget for East Side Access, a massive infrastructure project that would link Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

MTA’s now estimates a $9.7 billion budget and 2021 completion. That is not the most conservative of estimates with the Federal Transit Administration expecting a late 2023 opening and a $10.8 billion price tag.

The MTA has pushed the deadline back and budget up a number of times from the original 2012 opening and $4.5 billion budget.

Outside consultant Rick Thorpe had advised strengthening management with executives from MTA, LIRR, Amtrak in order to finish the project.

Officials cited the complexities of the various challenges for an undertaking as large as the East Side Access, which is possibly the largest current public transportation project in the nation.

With multi-billion transportation projects, people are not often surprised with delays or coming out over-budget. NYU professor John Falcocchio points to the “Big Dig” in Boston rerouting its chief highway through the city center in a tunnel as an example. It started planning in 1982 with an estimated cost of $2.8 billion ($6 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2007) to be finished in 1998, but finished at the end of 2007 costing $14.6 billion.

“I believe underestimating costs is the inevitable result for very complex projects,” Falcocchio said.

“There has been a history of underestimating public transportation improvements–it is not unique to New York City,” says Herbert Levinson, professor emeritus of transportation. There are always unforeseen circumstances, and with larger projects more can come up.

Prendergast says the estimates presented Monday include a medium-level of risk mitigation, and the scale of problems that have come up in managing the problem are unique to East Side Access.