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DiNapoli: MTA security upgrade in 'disarray'

A plan to upgrade security throughout the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prevent terrorist attacks is "in disarray," according to a state comptroller's report released Tuesday.

The report by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the MTA's capital security program, originally proposed in 2005, has ballooned in cost from $591 million to $833 million and is years behind schedule.

Very little money is left for an ambitious plan to install a sophisticated electronic security system, and the system "may never be completed," the report said.

"The MTA is struggling to bring the security of its system into the 21st century, but the project is taking too long, costing too much, and there is no end in sight," said DiNapoli, who noted that the MTA is safer than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, largely because of the work of the MTA police.

The originally proposed electronic security system would have included thousands of surveillance cameras linked to command centers that would track activity throughout transit stations and other facilities.

It was slated for completion by August 2008. But a major setback occurred when Lockheed Martin, the Maryland-based contractor hired to implement the system, sued the MTA to get out of its contract, alleging that the transit agency did not provide sufficient access to underground tunnels and to would-be communications centers for the system.

The MTA has countersued Lockheed Martin, but said Tuesday it intends to go forth with its plan with or without the contractor.

"We are not waiting for the outcome of ongoing litigation to secure our transit network and will finish the project with available funds," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in a statement.

For security reasons, officials with the MTA and DiNapoli's office declined to give specifics on how the upgrades were being implemented throughout the MTA system, or where progress has been slow. Ortiz noted that 2,300 video cameras already have been installed at various subway stations.

MTA officials said that the delays in implementing the electronic surveillance system have not affected the Long Island Rail Road, and noted that the MTA is testing an electronic security system for the LIRR. Details of that system were not available.

Ortiz noted that, in his report, DiNapoli acknowledged that the MTA has made "significant improvements to our security structure," including hardening infrastructure to better withstand a bomb blast.

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