The MTA has proposed renovating a half-dozen LIRR stations — including a major rebuilding of Mets-Willets Point — as part of a revised $29 billion Capital Program.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board on Wednesday approved the revised 2015-2019 spending plan, which still needs the approval of the state’s Capital Program Review Board. The major change to the program, originally submitted in 2014, is a $500 million injection to advance the MTA’s construction of a Second Avenue subway line.
But also included are enhancements for Bayside, East Hampton, Port Jefferson, Stewart Manor and Wyandanch stations totaling $25 million. The upgrades could include “art components, safety/security, improved/renews signage, passenger amenities, lighting, railings and staircases and customer information systems.”
The Long Island Rail Road would separately spend $78 million for a major “replacement and upgrade” of its Mets-Willets Point Station, including to accommodate a new AirTrain connection to LaGuardia Airport proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said the addition of the LIRR station face-lifts to the Capital Program — already the largest in agency history — is an attempt to show riders that their money is being spent on more than just routine maintenance.
“The two places where we touch customers the most, for the longest part of their journey with us, is on the vehicles when they ride with us and in the stations where they wait for trains,” Prendergast said. “So we’ve made a commitment, and the governor has been a part of this, as has the legislature, in terms of improving that experience at a number of stations.”
East Hampton Village Administrator Becky Molinaro said village officials were “thrilled” that the MTA had committed to rehabbing the community’s 121-year-old station, a local historic landmark and a popular destination for summer weekenders.
“It just looks ugly,” said Molinaro, describing the station’s chipping paint and worn linoleum floors. “The village has actually been asking the MTA for the last few years to renovate and upkeep the station. . . . We’re really happy that they’re going to be doing it.”
Despite the added station projects, the MTA’s capital program earmarks $285 million less for the LIRR than the originally proposed $3.12 billion. The MTA said it will save money by “piggybacking” multiple projects to reduce track outages and closing stations during midday hours so construction workers can “get in, get done, and get out.”
The MTA has said it will fund the capital projects with a combination of agency and government dollars, including $8.3 billion promised in the recently passed New York state budget. Prendergast called it a “landmark financial commitment” and a “monumental win for the people of New York.”
But state officials have said they will only provide the money once the MTA has exhausted all other funding options. They’ve also offered few specifics on how they will come up with the money, other than borrowing.
“We feel comfortable that they will come up with the funds, so at this point in time, there’s no need for specificity,” MTA Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran assured board members.
Prendergast has said that without state approval of the capital plan, the MTA would run out of money to pay for new infrastructure projects at the end of June. With the proposed changes, Prendergast said there are “no outstanding issues” and he expects the state to approve the program “just in time.”