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MTA’s $27B capital spending plan gets green light, thumbs up

State officials praised the approval Tuesday of a $27 billion five-year spending plan for capital improvements to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system, saying it represents the “largest investment in MTA infrastructure in state history.”

The 2015-2019 Capital Program, approved by the Capital Program Review Board, includes $8.3 billion from the state and consists of several upgrades.

They include: the purchase of 1,450 subway cars and 2,340 buses; new Metro-North stations and extending the service to Penn Station; adding a second line of track along 18 miles between the Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road stations to ease congestion; replacing the MetroCard with a new fare system; beginning the extension of the Second Avenue Subway into East Harlem and finishing the East Side Access project that will carry LIRR riders into Grand Central Terminal.

The plan calls for renovating dozens of subway stations in ways that “enhance the customer experience,” including improved lighting, signage, new art, cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi.

“The MTA is the lifeblood of the New York metropolitan area’s transportation network and we must ensure it has the capacity to meet the travel demands of the next generation and fuel one of the largest economies on the globe,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a news release announcing the funding. “By investing in the most robust transportation plan in state history, we are re-imagining the MTA and ensuring a safer, more reliable and more resilient public transportation network for tomorrow.”

An additional $3 billion was earmarked for “self-funded bridge and tunnel improvement and repair projects financed by MTA Bridges and Tunnels,” the announcement said.

Officials said the MTA Board is expected to approve a Request for Statement of Qualifications to begin identifying design-build teams for the renovation program.

“Today marks a major step forward for the MTA, and the people of New York,” MTA chairman Tom Prendergast said. “With historic levels of funding through the capital plan, we have the resources and support we need to fulfill the Governor’s mandate to renew, enhance and expand our transportation infrastructure.”

Advocates for users of the nation’s largest transportation system were pleased to hear that the projects they had long clamored for seem to be coming to fruition.

“At last,” said Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign. “This is almost two years in the making. It shouldn’t be that long and complicated but it is. This is New York.”

Russianoff, who in March had chided Cuomo’s plan to inject the $8.3 billion into the capital program as lacking in specifics, was pleased Tuesday.

“It’s not perfect but there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s great for commuters and subway riders and bus riders,” he said, pointing out the plan to replace the MetroCard.

William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, agreed the funding will breathe new life into parts of the system in disrepair while innovating others.

“It’s long overdue and it is necessary to let the MTA move forward with projects that just have to be done,” he said. “They were running out of tricks to keep the capital plan going.”

Indeed, in March, Prendergast warned that by June 30, the MTA would run out of money to pay for new contracts and make new purchases as part of the agency’s 2015-2019 Capital Program.

“There was only so long they could have done this because the deadline was early summer,” Henderson said, adding that most of the funding will go toward normal replacement and restoring parts of the system. “That’s really the critical thing here . . . Without additional funding, the LIRR wouldn’t be able to begin to replace some cars and procure new cars for the East Side Access project.”

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