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Queens Chronicle

MTA capital funds are on right track

Albany approves $13B package

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:00 pm

The state has approved a three-year capital spending program for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The agreement between legislators and Gov. Cuomo was announced on Sunday.

The plan includes $770 million in continued state funding, and permission for the MTA to increase its borrowing limit.

The latter will allow for the sale of more than $4.5 billion in MTA bonds, and a $2.2 billion federal railroad loan.

The entire package includes just about the entire $13 billion requested by MTA for capital funding between 2012 and 2014.

“The MTA is grateful for Gov. Cuomo’s leadership and commitment in recognizing the critical importance of funding mass transit, and in particular for fully funding our current capital program,” said an MTA spokesman in a statement issued Monday.

The MTA said the state’s approval will do more than keep its infrastructure in good repair and improve the quality of service for riders.

“[It] also will create tens of thousands of jobs and generate economic activity across the entire state,” the MTA said.

Gene Russianoff, attorney for the Straphangers Campaign and the group’s chief spokesman, praised Cuomo and legislative leaders for their work Tuesday.

He said the capital budget proposal is a good one, though not without some challenges for the MTA down the road.

“There weren’t any real surprises in this,” Russianoff said.

He said the $770 million is an extension of funding that the state had been granting the MTA for several years to assist with payments on bonds that were recently paid off.

He also said the new borrowing power will give the MTA some needed financial flexibility.

“This plan means they can purchase subway cars and buses,” Russianoff said. “Signals will be improved and stations will be rehabbed.”

The challenge, he said, will be on MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and his board to find increased funding in the future in order to keep up with future expenses, including a steep increase in projected debt.

“This year the MTA is paying $2 billion in debt service on money it has already borrowed,” he said. “By 2019 that will be $3 billon a year, so there will be significant pressure on them.”

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