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MTA chief Prendergast, Cuomo agree on plan to fund slimmer capital program

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo with MTA chairman Thomas

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo with MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast at the Whitehall Street subway station on Sept. 14, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed Thursday on a plan to fund the agency's proposed five-year capital program, which still needs support from New York City in the form of more than $3 billion.

Responding to a letter sent Monday by State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate urging the agency to "reexamine the cost estimate" for its proposed $32 billion Capital Program, Prendergast said Thursday that the MTA believes it could trim the price tag to $26.8 billion.

The savings would be achieved by pursuing "alternative delivery methods" for some construction projects, including public-private partnerships and hiring one contractor to design and build a project, rather than awarding different aspects of a job to different contractors.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday also proposed using newly found surplus dollars to shave $2.4 billion off the total capital program bill. Despite the efficiencies, Prendergast said the MTA would still need the state to kick in $8.3 billion and New York City to contribute $3.2 billion toward the plan.

"Everyone agrees the Capital Program is vital to the future of the City and the State. We know that the Governor is anxious to resolve this matter," Prendergast wrote. "Our revisions to the plan will maximize its efficiency, and we believe they form a more than reasonable request."

Speaking to NY1 News after learning of the proposal, Cuomo agreed to the terms of Prendergast's proposal, which he called "more than fair."

"They've shrunk the gap as far as they can," Cuomo said. "I'm willing to do my fair share."

The MTA's capital program is used to fund infrastructure maintenance, improvement and expansion projects, including the East Side Access plan to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.

The tentative pact between Cuomo and the MTA leaves a potential resolution largely in the hands of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The requested $3.2 billion would be a sizable increase over the city's current offer of $657 million for the plan.

Prendergast said the city's contribution has been "seriously deficient for many years" given the fact that 90 percent of the MTA's customers are on the city's subways and buses.

De Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said the mayor's office is "reviewing the letter and . . . are ready and willing to have a comprehensive conversation on a sustainable funding stream for the MTA."

Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris noted that the city, through taxes, tolls and fares, already contributes more than 70 percent of the MTA's operating budget.

Meanwhile, LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski Thursday held out the recently completed $20.5 million renovation of the Massapequa station as an example of the good that can be done for Long Island with a fully funded capital program.

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