On Jan. 19, the Federal Transit Administration published Federal Notice of Available Funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2021. The accompanying tables by funding programs make for very interesting reading. MTA Chairman Pat Foye, Gov. Cuomo, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, members of the New York Congressional Delegation, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials constantly complain that Washington shortchanges the MTA. Yet none of them has ever said a word about the following.
Why has the MTA for as long as five years, in some cases, been unsuccessful in applying for the following Federal Transit Administration discretionary funded project allocations that would also improve the NYC Transit Canarsie L subway line and one for Metro North Rail Road Ferry service worth a total of $102,721,579 dollars?
The MTA should have previously submitted grant applications for these funds totaling $102,721,479. Work funded by these dollars should have already been completed. Some work could have been coordinated with the Canarsie Line East River Tunnel project. Sharing the same overnight and weekend track outages along with NYC Transit Force Account employees might have saved both time and money.
Why has the MTA been unsuccessful in having these funds obligated under approved grants? Has the MTA entered formal grants in FTA’s Transit Award Management System (known as “TrAMS”) used to award and manage federal grants. If so, have they failed to answer all of FTA’s concerns and issues as part of any ongoing grant review? These funds could eventually lapse and be lost.
The MTA is in intense competition against transit agencies from other cities and states around the nation. It hurts NYC and the Metro NY area, when the MTA leaves these discretionary dollars on the table year after year. Our congressional delegation loses credibility when lobbying for more transit dollars.
There is no incentive for Washington to approve additional discretionary transit dollars. As each year goes by, project costs increase. The dollar value of the earmark does not. In the end, taxpayers, commuters and MTA employees are the losers. With a multibillion-dollar shortfall in the MTA’s $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan, all funds count. The MTA should make this a priority and secure these earmarked funds before they might be eventually lost.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)