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MTA’s subway station upgrade program rolled back amid cost overruns

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Only 19 of the 32 stations targeted were upgraded before funds ran low

A program to update and modernize 32 subway stations throughout New York has blown its $936 million budget amid rampant cost overruns.

The MTA and Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative will wind down after work on just 19 of the 32 stations has been completed. The original plan had allotted $28 million per station for upgrades like LED lighting, improved station signage, new stairs, and upgraded electrical and communications systems.

But as with many things related to the MTA, those costs ballooned when contractors began work and discovered rotting infrastructure within the stations. The current average cost to upgrade each station, the Wall Street Journal reports, is $43 million.

The program was heavily criticized for favoring cosmetic upgrades over the signal upgrades that have become increasingly urgent since the initiative was announced in summer 2016.

Former City Planning director and current MTA advisor Carl Weisbrod told the Journal that the initiative was “ill-conceived.”

“I don’t know when the MTA management realized that the program had run out of money but it would’ve been helpful to have informed the board when this matter was under discussion,” Weisbrod said.

MTA President Joe Lhota has the answer for that. Lhota says he became aware of the cost overruns last year, but decided not to mention it to the board. “I didn’t think it was relevant to the debate,” he told the Journal.

About $90 million of the $936 million allotted to the initiative will carry over to making stations more accessible, according to an MTA spokesman. The 13 stations targeted for upgrades that didn’t make the cut will have to wait for the MTA’s next five-year spending plan, which goes into effect in 2020.

The stations that made the cut include the N/W at 30th Avenue, 36th Avenue, 39th Avenue, and Broadway; the R at 53rd Street, Bay Ridge Avenue, and Prospect Avenue; the C at 163rd Street/Amsterdam Avenue; the B/C at 72nd Street, 86th Street, and Cathedral Parkway; the F/M at 23rd Street and 57th Street; the 6 at 28th Street; the 1/2/3 at and A/C/E at 34th Street-Penn Station; the 3 at 145th Street; the B/D at 167th Street and 174th-175th Streets; and the Staten Island Railway stop at Richmond Valley.