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MTA chief Prendergast urges more funding for capital projects, says 2nd track for LIRR's Ronkonkoma line should be completed next year

East Side Access project progress as of Dec.

East Side Access project progress as of Dec. 3, 2013, along Sunnyside Yard and Harold Interlocking in Queens. Credit: MTA Capital Construction / Rehema Trimiew

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast Thursday urged new funding for his agency's capital spending program and said a second track for the LIRR's Ronkonkoma branch should be done in 2015, and that his agency is planning the next construction phase for the Second Avenue subway line.

At a State Assembly hearing in lower Manhattan, Prendergast offered broad outlines of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's program. Details of the four-year capital plan for 2015 through 2019 will be presented to the MTA board Sept. 24 and sent to the Capital Program Review Board in Albany by Oct. 1, he said.

"The bottom line is, the capital program needs an infusion of new, sustainable funding, and we need your support in that regard, so that we can move forward with a capital program that moves New York forward," Prendergast said.

The current 2014-18 capital plan is $35 billion, but that started out much lower and grew rapidly with the inclusion of billions in Sandy-related aid.

Prendergast said the tentative 2015-19 plan is in the area of $27 billion to $30 billion, and that the state comptroller's office has estimated about $12 billion in additional funding is needed over four years to meet the budget.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said last month that cost overruns on some MTA projects have limited what can be done in other areas. He cited the East Side Access construction, saying it is now projected to cost $10.7 billion, more than twice its original estimate.

The Double Track project will add a second set of rails along an 18-mile stretch in western Suffolk, allowing the LIRR to run more trains on the Ronkonkoma line. The first phase of the Second Avenue subway construction project, to extend the Q line to lower Manhattan, started in April 2007 and is slated for completion by December 2016.

Thursday's hearing was held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, chaired by Assemb. James Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat. Six other Assembly members from New York City and Westchester County attended, but Long Island's Assembly members were not there during Prendergast's two hours of testimony.

The MTA leader said the tentative capital budget will have to be amended to reflect the findings of the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission suggested last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

That committee was created in June and held three days of hearings last month at MTA headquarters in Manhattan.

"This panel of 24 international experts is developing a range of insights that will help the MTA prepare for its next 100 years," Prendergast told the Assembly members.

The Assembly members were, for the most part, concerned about local matters. Queens representatives pressed the MTA to make bus improvements a priority, and Assemb. Phillip Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) said he took a ferry to the hearing because A train service was so bad. "And I think you know that," he said to Prendergast.

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