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MTA cuts armrest project, others to save $40 million

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority took another shot Thursday at closing its budget gap and decided to remove more than 140 projects from its 2010 budget, for a savings of $40 million, officials said.

As a result, riders of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will have to continue to watch out for those armrests on M-7 trains that snag overcoats, causing the agency to pay thousands of dollars in claims for clothing repairs.

A program to replace the armrests was eliminated in the budget-cutting process, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said. Cutting the armrest replacement program will save the MTA just over $3 million, officials said.

The MTA administrative action Thursday shifted or eliminated 141 of 280 operating projects set for 2010. Those that weren't cut were shifted into the 2011 budget. The agency operates on a calendar year budget system and has needed to make big cuts because of lower-than-expected tax revenues and reduced state aid.

Soffin said no programs that would affect system safety were touched. Instead, the MTA deferred or cut programs dealing with refurbishment of its office computer system and space, as well as auto and truck replacement, according to a summary of the savings published by the agency.

Rather than take a "salami-slicing" approach and making small cuts across all departments, he said, the MTA decided to take a different approach by eliminating or deferring many programs.

Despite the latest trims, the MTA said it still has to come up with cuts of $340 million to balance its budget by July.

To do that, the agency is talking with labor unions, looking at areas such as overtime and considering additional administrative cost reductions.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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