Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg must make public the documents on expensive transit projects


Mayor Pete, also called Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, is in New York. He was on Stephen Colbert’s TV show last night. Today, he’ll be on the Far West Side for a photo-op for Amtrak’s $50 billion Gateway boondoggle and tomorrow he’ll be presenting the MTA with a signed contract for $3,404,883,991 in federal money for the next leg of the Second Ave. subway.
A check for $3.4 billion is welcome for a project that was planned in 1929 but didn’t open until 2017. However, along with the MTA’s share of $4.3 billion, the total expense comes to $7.7 billion for just 1.76 miles of subway, much of which is already built. The first segment of the Second Ave. subway, up to 96th St., was $2.5 billion per mile. Phase 2, running to 125th St., is $4.4 billion per mile, 29% higher than the initial portion.
Phase 1 was already far too costly, as a detailed NYU report on transit construction costs from February showed. The study identified several reasons for the waste, such as overly large and fancy stations (repeated on Phase 2) and relying on consultants from the giant multinationals like WSP and AECOM and STV. The risk is privatized, but the reduced competition only increases costs (repeated on Phase 2).
These dismal numbers are in documents the Federal Transit Administration sent to Congress a month ago, but haven’t seen the light of day for the citizens paying the bills. The draft contract, called the Full Funding Grant Agreement, the Project Management Oversight Contractor (PMOC) report and Financial Capacity Assessment, were, by law, sent to eight different congressional offices, four each in both the House and Senate. We asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the papers. He agreed, but then his office said they didn’t have them. The documents should be automatically published by the FTA.
All large transit projects have a monthly PMOC report. Those should be published every month for the public to see, not just the insiders. Can you do that, Pete?


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