MTA, LIRR security upgrade delayed until 2017, will cost $700M extra, says report

The MTA’s post-9/11 plan to increase security throughout the system, including at Long Island Rail Road stations, is nearly a decade behind schedule and will cost at least $700 million more than originally projected, according to a state report due out on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Newsday file footage 2012, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

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The MTA's post-9/11 plan to increase security systemwide will take nearly a decade longer to complete and cost at least $700 million more than originally projected, in part because much of the progress inside the East River tunnels used by the Long Island Rail Road was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, according to a new state report and the MTA.

The report, to be officially released Wednesday by the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, blamed several factors for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital security plan's delays and cost overruns, including "projects that were more complicated than initially envisioned," major reductions in federal funding for transit security, and the MTA expanding its security plan to include many new projects.

The biggest delays in the MTA's now $1.3 billion capital security plan involve an effort to install 3,000 surveillance cameras and 1,400 access-control devices in stations and tunnels, according to the audit. That effort would have been complete by 2015, but replacing security equipment on the LIRR damaged by the October 2012 storm will take until 2017 -- nine years later than the original goal -- and cost $23 million more.

According to DiNapoli's report, 50 cameras and 72 access-control devices throughout the LIRR -- or about 40 percent of them -- were destroyed by Sandy, along with 5 miles of fiber-optic cable and power supply panels.

Despite the Sandy setbacks, the MTA said all critical LIRR locations, including East River tunnel entry points, are protected. The MTA and DiNapoli would not disclose specific locations where work has not been completed.

The report noted that sharp reductions in federal aid for transit security projects have also caused problems, including for five projects that the MTA already designed with the expectation that they would be federally funded. The MTA now has to find another $120 million of its own money to complete the work, the report said.

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But, DiNapoli's office noted, "even when federal funds are available, the MTA has encountered problems." The report recounted the MTA forfeiting $46 million in federal grants by blowing deadlines for using the money. The MTA was allowed to keep the money to use for other purposes.

"Although the MTA has made important security improvements, the first phase of its capital program is still not finished, more than 12 years after Sept. 11, 2001," DiNapoli said in a statement. "The sharp reduction in federal funds for transit security over the past four years has shifted more of the burden of securing the nation's largest transit system to the MTA's own resources."

In a statement Tuesday, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the system is "much safer and more secure than it was before 9/11."

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Ortiz noted that the majority of MTA security projects have been completed, except for electronic security systems in subway tunnels. Those have been delayed by "complex site conditions, hardware and software requirements" and will be finished by 2015, Ortiz said.

The MTA's other agencies "have fully operational electronic security capabilities," including the LIRR, Ortiz said.

In its report, DiNapoli's office agreed that the MTA and law enforcement "are receiving significant benefits . . . from the portions of the program that have been completed," including video feeds from nearly 1,000 cameras in the subway system.

The status report is the ninth issued by the state comptroller since shortly after the MTA launched its capital security initiative following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. DiNapoli noted that the MTA's latest 2017 completion date is more than three years later than when he last issued a report on the program in 2012.

MTA Police Benevolent Association president Michael Meara said he believes LIRR riders and other MTA customers should not feel in danger.

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He said, "In law enforcement, the best deterrent is feet on the street."

 

 

MTA's security plan

 

Created as part of the MTA's 2000-04 capital program.

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Estimated cost: $591 million, original; $1.3 billion, current

Estimated completion date: 2008, original; 2017, current

Surveillance cameras to be installed: 3,000

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