Help us fix the subways NOW, MTA board member begs NYS

Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage to the city’s transit system and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is going to need help from New York State to pay for repairs, an MTA board member said.

In a conference call with reporters on Dec. 5, MTA board member Allen Cappelli said that the agency will rely heavily on money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as insurance money, to cover the costs of the massive repairs needed to return the transit system to full service.

“The lion’s share will come from FEMA,” Cappelli said. But the money could take up to three years to arrive, he said.

New York State could help by waiving fees it charges the MTA when the state issues bonds to pay for capital projects of the MTA. The bond fees, which Cappelli characterized as being charged “for the great privilege of borrowing money from the state,” can run into the tens of millions of dollars.

The responsibility of paying the bond fees “adds to the expense of the agency which the public has to pay,” Cappelli said.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), who set up the conference call, said she supports the MTA’s efforts to get rid of bond fees. “The state should not be making money off of this,” she said. Sandy caused an estimated $5 billion in damage to the transit system, she said.

The bond fees were waived for in 2011 and in 2012, according to Malliotakis. “Last year, we saved the MTA $50 billion by getting rid of bond fees,” she said.

Malliotakis and Cappelli said they want the fees waived permanently. “I plan to make this a point of focus when the budget process begins. I am prepared to introduce legislation,” Malliotakis said.

“We have to look for ways to help the MTA so they don’t have to continuously go to the commuter for money,’ she said.

The MTA has made efforts to operate in a more cost-effective way, Cappelli said. “We try to cut costs. Internally it was very successful,” he said.

The post-Sandy work the MTA is conducting includes repairing the Montague Street tunnel, which was flooded during the hurricane and is not expected to be back in service until the end of this month. The R train, which normally traveled through the tunnel to being passengers from Brooklyn and Manhattan and back, currently runs in segments. Passengers seeking to travel to Manhattan have to transfer to other subway lines.