MTA won't get stuck with bill
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
First free rides on the R train were announced and then it was learned that the federal government would pick up most of the multi-million dollar tab for repairing the Sandy-damaged Montague Street tunnel.
R train riders, who have had to put up with major inconveniences stemming from the closure of the Montague tube, got a double dose of good news on Friday.
The federal government has agreed to pick up 90 percent of the costs of repairing the Sandy-damaged tube, it was announced.
Senator Chuck Schumer and US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx inspected the tunnel work site and offered an update on the progress of the repairs after their tour.
They projected that the final cost of the repairs will be $262 million. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will pay for 90 percent of that, or $236 million, with funds from the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill, Schumer and Foxx announced.
The balance of the repairs costs will either be made up the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) or will be paid for by other federal sources, Schumer said.
"Every dollar paid for by the feds is one less dollar that has to be borne by the MTA, putting less pressure on fares and on the agency's books," Schumer said.
Schumer’s statement came on the same day that Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would mark the first anniversary of Super-storm Sandy by opening the turnstiles in R train stations in Brooklyn for free.
The Montague Street tunnel, which connects the R line between Brooklyn and Manhattan, closed in August so that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could repair the damage the tube sustained in the Oct. 29, 2012 hurricane. The tunnel is expected to be closed for at least another year.
The tunnel closure has forced R train riders to find other routes, since the train only travels between Court Street and 95th Street and no longer goes into Manhattan on weekdays. On weekends, the R travels over the N line and goes over the Manhattan Bridge.
“Hurricane Sandy was the worst disaster in transit history, but even before it hit, we were working with New York to make sure it could recover as quickly as possible. One year later, we've made great progress, thanks in part to Senator Schumer's and the rest of the New York delegation's efforts to secure recovery funding, which we are putting to use at sites like the Montague Tunnel,” Foxx said.
In previous disasters, the MTA would only be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and would fight for years to get federal funding to rebuild infrastructure, according to Schumer.
But now under the Transit Emergency Relief program, the MTA can work exclusively with the Federal Transit Administration and the FTA can give the MTA something called “pre-award contract authority, meaning the MTA is allowed to start eligible work to rebuild tunnels like the Montague tube without waiting years for a final reimbursement agreement from FEMA.
US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan-Brooklyn), who also toured the work site on Friday, said he was pleased that federal money was coming in to pay for the bulk of the repairs.
"Superstorm Sandy had devastating consequences to the way we live our lives and to the way our local economy works -- particularly to our transportation infrastructure,” Nadler said.
"As we move forward in the recovery from superstorm Sandy, I will continue to work with Secretary Foxx to repair our transportation infrastructure from the devastating impacts of that terrible disaster," Nadler added.