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MTA chair gets letter calling for transparency on Subway Action Plan — from the mayor and speaker

Joseph Lhota, “glad [the city is] a partner with us now,” said there was “no need for a letter.”

MTA chairman Joseph Lhota on Wednesday said he

MTA chairman Joseph Lhota on Wednesday said he had yet to read a letter from Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority is revealing “scant details to the public” about promised fixes to the moribund subways, which have shown “little improvement in service” since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last summer declared a state of emergency, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote Wednesday.

In a letter to MTA chairman Joe Lhota, the mayor and speaker demanded “a more transparent process” to track how the authority’s Subway Action Plan — to which the city was forced by the latest state budget to contribute about $418 billion this year — is proceeding.

“Failure is not an option and we firmly believe that a more transparent process can lead to better, more effective implementation,” de Blasio and Johnson wrote.

The men, using the plan’s abbreviation, wrote: “Unfortunately, although the MTA began implementing the SAP last July, it has provided scant details to the public on its progress and the MTA’s own ‘major incidents’ metric shows little improvement in service. City taxpayers deserve to know that they are getting a good return on their investment.”

De Blasio and Johnson, both Democrats, wrote that they are dismayed at reports that MTA projects continue to suffer cost overruns — including for a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting Grand Central Terminal to the Long Island Rail Road, known as East Side Access.

“For example, the East Side Access Project, which started with a budget of $4.3 billion and a completion date in 2009, will now require an additional billion dollars with a completion date in 2022 and an estimated price tag of $11 billion,” the letter said.

After an authority board meeting Wednesday, Lhota told reporters that he hadn’t read the letter, but added he said he would be “more than happy” to share Subway Action Plan updates with the city.

“I’m glad [the city is] a partner with us now. There was no need for a letter at all to be able to do this,” Lhota said. “We have the data, we have the information. ... But I think it’s really, really important to understand that we are working diligently day in and day out. And if the city wants to know what we’re doing, we’ll show it to them.”

De Blasio, speaking at an unrelated event at City Hall, said “we want to see exactly how the money is being spent.” The city leaders, the letter says, want the MTA to “increase transparency,” “conduct a midcourse review,” “focus on core needs” — instead of painting and re-tiling, focus on signal and track inspection and repair — “better measure progress,” “review operations” and “plan for the future.”

“We’re not going to keep contributing the taxpayers’ money into a sinkhole,” de Blasio said.


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