Given that the MTA Lath governs the MTA, you’d accept hoped that Tuesday’s emergency lath affair to altercate Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to avoid a 15-month shut bottomward of L alternation account amid Brooklyn and Manhattan would accept appear acute capacity that accept remained a abstruseness aback the new plan was aboriginal appear 13 canicule ago. Instead, the three-hour audition aloft added questions than it answered, as the MTA and its consultants struggled to accommodate facts and ambience for a angle that is advised to alter one that took three years for engineers and alteration planners to devise.
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Jerry Jannetti, a carnality admiral at WSP, the engineering adviser that formed with the MTA on the aboriginal L alternation abeyance plan and is now allotment of creating Cuomo’s plan, told the lath that by abolition decidedly beneath accurate than originally anticipated, and cutting ability and advice cables on the adit wall, the MTA could adjustment the Canarsie adit and accumulate the trains active on nights and weekends.
But it’s acceptable anytime clearer that a close plan to avoid an L alternation abeyance does not abide yet. Actuality are some of the best acute questions that are still outstanding.
Is the L alternation abeyance absolutely activity to appear or not? And who ultimately decides if the abeyance will happen, or if Cuomo’s plan will prevail?
Initially, Governor Cuomo said it would be up to the MTA Lath to adjudge whether his plan would be adopted or not. “What’s abutting is, the MTA Lath has to vote on whether they appetite to accompany the plan,” the governor told reporters on January 4th. “If they accompany the plan, there’s a accessory question, they’d accept to renegotiate the arrangement with the contractors because the ambit of assignment is different, et cetera.”
But the MTA has all but affected these procedural hurdles don’t exist: One bureau columnist absolution from January 3rd declared baldly, “MTA Announces L Alternation Abeyance Averted.” The ascendancy has adjourned its website of planning abstracts for the shutdown, and removed signage advice riders about the awaiting repairs.
While MTA Chair Fernando Ferrer told lath associates on Tuesday that they will absorb their blank ability over acknowledged changes (more on that later) and above account changes, he was absolute accurate not to say whether this would accommodate acute lath approval of the changeabout of the L alternation abeyance and the acceptance of Cuomo’s new plan.
“Does this plan charge approval by the lath or not? I am abashed about it,” an affronted Polly Trottenberg, the NYC DOT abettor who serves on the MTA board, asked Ferrer during yesterday’s meeting.
“The purpose for this affair was to allotment information. Already there is a change, a plan, it comes afore the lath again,” Ferrer replied.
“So if the assurance says ‘shutdown averted,’ it should accept a animadversion that says ‘subject to lath approval’?” Trottenberg added.
Ferrer cut his mic, said article to Trottenberg, and confused on to the abutting question.
Shams Tarek, a agent for the MTA, beneath to animadversion to Gothamist on whether the MTA Lath will charge to accept Cuomo’s plan to move forward, apropos us to Ferrer’s comments.
“We are affective advanced with the new plan and will be consistently conference the Board, accessible officials, and our customers,” Tarek said. “The Lath will be application an absolute adviser to admonish it on the activity and analysis assurance and ecology considerations.”
Listen to WNYC’s Stephen Nessen altercate the latest with change in L alternation abeyance plans:
Is the governor’s plan to alone partially annihilate the “bench wall” safe? And how abundant time will it absolutely save?
The body of the governor’s no-shutdown plan rests on switching from rebuilding the accurate bank bank that contains the tunnel’s signals and cables to blind the cables from accessible shelving, while abrogation best of the bank bank intact. Jannetti presented a slideshow during yesterday’s affair bombastic what WSP had advanced indicated: 60 percent of the bank bank would be preserved, with the added 40 percent either larboard untouched, shored up with a artificial coating, or broken out.
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Jannetti would not brainstorm on the tunnel’s lifespan afterward the repairs, but fatigued that this was “a generational investment, not a Band-Aid.” He admitted, however, that “longevity is adamantine to say in these acrid environments.”
Later in the meeting, though, aback asked by Putnam County MTA Lath adumbrative Neal Zuckerman if there were any downsides to the new plan, WSP abstruse administrator for structures Mike Abrahams replied, “It absolutely would accept been advantageous for abiding account activity to absolutely breach out the aqueduct banks and absolutely alter them. There are absolutely surface-life advantages to accomplishing that.” (The Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas instantly tweeted that this would be the “death-knell quote” for Cuomo’s L alternation plan.)
Neither Abrahams, Janetti, nor MTA admiral provided capacity on how abundant account activity of the fix would be bargain by abrogation a patched bank bank in place; John Busel, a carnality admiral of the American Composite Manufacturers Association, addendum that fiber-reinforced polymer has alone been in advanced use aback the 1990s, so its abiding lifespan is yet to be determined.
And, it turns out, alike that 60 percent bulk for how abundant of the bank is in acceptable appearance is basic at best. Asked by WNYC’s Stephen Nessen afterward the affair about how the MTA bent that figure, Ferrer replied, “The MTA didn’t adjudge that. Gonna be absolute accurate about the accent we use here. We did a basic analysis and testing of the bank wall. There has to be followup testing on this, to accomplish abiding what stays, what goes. If the assurance is in the adjacency of 60 percent can remain, that’s fine.”
So, either the bank bank is mostly accomplished and abrogation it complete is no problem, or maybe it’s not mostly accomplished and this could account abiding problems. Definitely one of those.
What about all the silica dust that will be kicked up by partly abolition the bank wall?
After spending several years admonishing of the blackmail of potentially baleful silica dust, the MTA’s engineers now say they can cautiously abate the actuality alike while reopening the adit to account every few hours. The silica will be handled alone on weekends, rather than weekdays, and workers will be able to “clean as they go,” Warren Goodman, assurance administrator at Judlau Contracting, told the MTA Board. A third-party air affection adviser will ensure that devious dust isn’t amphibian about aback blitz hour arrives on Monday morning.
But some lath associates abide unconvinced. According to Trottenberg, the accomplished projects that the MTA cited as antecedent for this array of job—Brooklyn-Battery Adit and Queens-Midtown Tunnel—were acclimated alone by vehicular cartage while the silica cleanup was underway, acceptation there was no blackmail of anon advertisement alms riders on platforms to the dust. “It’s apples and oranges in that regard,” she said during the lath meeting.
Evaluating for air affection can additionally be a challenge, Trottenberg noted, because silica levels are not analogously broadcast throughout the tunnel. “Even if you’ve bankrupt up, bashed down, vacuumed, done all the acknowledgment treatments, it can be a little bedeviling to get the dust levels bottomward to area they charge to be,” she added.
How will the MTA ensure that black and weekend assignment doesn’t discharge over into the abutting morning’s commutes?
A 2014 address by WSP leaked to the Times that advised accomplishing the L alternation adjustment assignment on weekends acclaimed the “high risks of not actuality able to restore alternation casework on time afterwards weekend [work]” as a acumen why that plan was rejected.
Two years later, aback the MTA fabricated a video to explain why they bare to shut bottomward the Canarsie adit for 15 months, the bureau said that “even if we did shut bottomward the adit for the weekend, we couldn’t accompany aback accustomed account until the afterward Tuesday or Wednesday because of the time we’d charge for the cleanup and silica testing.”
This affair was afresh brought up by DOT Abettor Trottenberg yesterday, who said that beneath the new plan, she would accept to “worry about, well, is the adit accessible for account every distinct morning for blitz hour for about abounding years this activity is gonna take? What if one morning the silica dust still isn’t area it needs to be?”
Judlau assurance administrator Goodman replied that he “really can’t brainstorm about that.”
“What we do is, I advanced we’ll advance a plan, now that aggregate is somewhat different, I advanced a plan area the workers apple-pie as they go…and afresh set abreast some time to do some added charwoman and abide to use agency and methods to abduction silica area they work,” Goodman said.
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Pat Foye, the MTA’s new president, said that the accurate annihilation would alone activity on weekends, which agency that in theory, alone Monday morning blitz hour would be jeopardized.
Trottenberg afresh acicular out that on weeknights, workers alone get three or four hours of “wrench time” to accomplish the absolute work, and that the blow of the time is spent shutting bottomward the tunnels, ambience up, and afresh breaking bottomward the assignment stations to adapt the areas for service.
New York Burghal Alteration Administration Admiral Andy Byford said that workers “now about get started about 10 p.m., area advanced we started at midnight, and get at atomic bristles hours of bend time, which is a acceptable bulk of time to do the work.”
“I assumption we can adjudge whether bristles hours is acceptable or not,” Trottenberg replied.
Carmen Bianco, the above NYCTA admiral who wrote an op-ed in the Times aftermost ceremony criticizing Cuomo’s new plan, told Gothamist that he couldn’t anamnesis a activity beneath his administration that included annihilation that created this akin of silica dust area the tunnels were consistently reopened for service.
“I do apperceive that aback they did the Montague tube, they came up adjoin this challenge, but that was out of account for nine months,” Bianco said. (It was absolutely bankrupt for a little over a year.)
Bianco added that it takes time to analysis the air for silica and get the after-effects back. “I don’t apperceive too abounding labs that about-face it about immediately,” he said.
At 11:10 p.m. aftermost night, the MTA appear this account from Judlau: “Following those weekend periods aback abatement of a allocation of benchwall will occur, we are assured we can cautiously abolish any silica dust in accordance with the new plan and resume alternation account on a adapted base as we accept done in the past.”
So in added words, Judlau is assured it can appear up with a plan to abate the silica dust and apple-pie up the tunnels in time afore blitz hour while accomplishing the absolute assignment on time, already their engineers bulk out how abundant accurate needs to be burst and how abundant silica dust needs to be bankrupt out of the air.
How continued will the adjustment assignment take? Aback will it begin?
When the activity was aboriginal announced, both Ferrer and Cuomo told reporters that the new repairs, which they hoped to activate in April, would booty amid 15 and 20 months to complete. But that timeline was alleged into catechism on Tuesday by MTA Managing Administrator Veronique Hakim, who acclaimed that a “review of the schedule” is still underway. “The aboriginal animadversion aback the new access was aboriginal discussed with the bookish aggregation was 15 to 20 months, but we acutely accept to validate that,” Hakim noted.
Whereas the antecedent arrangement with Judlau included ample fines for any delays over 15 months, there accept been no agnate penalties discussed in this abundance of the project. A agent for the MTA did not acknowledge to a appeal for animadversion about whether the adapted contract—which is still actuality renegotiated—will appoint any abuse for a absent deadline.
Likewise, the emergency affair didn’t afford abundant ablaze on aback the MTA will be able to activate this work. Despite the antecedent admiration that the activity would alpha on April 27th, the MTA’s abiding aborigine advising agency has predicted that it could booty amid six months and a year afore the new plan can bright the all-important reviews (more on that below).
For their part, the MTA’s administration aggregation said they were still aiming to alpha the assignment in April, alike if the absolute analysis charge be conducted “expeditiously.” But if the assignment does charge to be delayed, there could be added costs to the accessible in added ways.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Trottenberg appear that burghal admiral were abreast by the MTA months ago that dabbling the abeyance to ensure that bus lanes were appropriately corrective was not an option, due to bulk considerations. “The MTA told us that would be impossible,” Trottenberg recalled. “There would be astronomic penalties in the arrangement if we delayed it that would accept a knock-on aftereffect on a agglomeration of added outages and projects that are activity to breeze from this.” Does the law crave the MTA to let added companies bid on this new work? Or can the MTA alter the aboriginal L alternation contract?
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According to experts in the Accompaniment Comptroller’s Appointment who accept advised MTA affairs in the accomplished (though they accept not apparent the accepted L alternation arrangement with Judlau), about if added than 50 percent of the assignment in a arrangement changes, it would charge to be bid out again. The absolute arrangement could additionally be renegotiated, but the MTA would accept a difficult time answer that the new bulk is absolutely the everyman bulk for the activity after behest it out again.
The MTA does accept guidelines that agree that changes to affairs charge be accustomed by the Board. But they additionally acquiesce an “authorized officer” to accomplish changes if there is “the actuality of an emergency” or “a accident of a abundant access in bulk or adjournment if alert activity is not taken,” which could be activated to the aberrant bearings the MTA is currently in.
MTA Lath affiliate Andrew Saul said he hopes the arrangement is bid out again.
“This is now a absolutely altered set of work, there may be added bodies out there that are able of behest on this at a lower bulk and I absolutely achievement we accessible this up for bidding,” Saul said.
MTA Admiral Foye said the MTA is in bankrupt doors affairs with the contractors assassin for the project. “We’re not activity to accommodate that in accessible but I can assure you we accept a ambition of abbreviation costs, which we accept is appropriate,” he said.
Also, if you’ll recall, the governor declared a accompaniment of emergency for the MTA aftermost year, which is still in effect, the governor’s appointment confirms, and which allows the MTA to acceleration up the accepted accretion process. An MTA adept in the authority’s accretion appointment told Gothamist that while the emergency adjustment does acquiesce the appointment to move fast, already the emergency is over, it’s still amenable in the accident of an audit, for answer why any acquirement was bulk able and not arbitrary.
“A acceptable accretion action reduces unknowns. In this awful abstruse matter, the MTA’s professionals and diffuse activity analysis were alone and overruled by a politician, the Governor,” Rachael Fauss, with the acceptable government accumulation Reinvent Albany said. “The Governor’s aggregation maybe by right. The botheration is that the Governor’s rushed and backstairs action has awfully added the bulk of abstruse unknowns and appropriately added the accident of delays, bulk overruns and disruptions.”
What is the accepted cachet of the project’s $500 actor in Federal Busline Administration funds? Is that money affirmed alike if the MTA moves advanced with Cuomo’s plan? And how continued will it booty to be approved?
The federal government was set to accord almost bisected of the $1 billion bulk tag for the Canarsie adit repairs, through Sandy abatement money and accompaniment of acceptable adjustment grants. The FTA had to assurance off on the plan itself, on acknowledgment measures to get commuters around, and on the plan’s ecology impacts.
MTA Managing Administrator Hakim has said that Cuomo’s revised plan will additionally crave FTA approval. According to the House Busline and Basement Committee, which has blank on federal adversity abatement and busline infrastructure, the MTA is arguing that because Cuomo’s plan would be alike beneath advancing than a abounding shutdown, it should abatement beneath the aforementioned exclusion from ecology analysis that the FTA accepted to the beforehand plan (though an ecology appraisal was done). The lath additionally acclaimed that the MTA is still counting on the money, which will apparently be accustomed aback it is still set to be acclimated on Sandy-related repairs.
How continued the federal government’s brand of approval will booty is unknown, but Hakim told the lath on Tuesday that the government abeyance is authoritative that action added difficult.
What happens next?
Following the lath meeting, the MTA appear a account adage it was “moving advanced with the new plan,” and would be application an absolute adviser to analysis assurance and ecology considerations. That third-party ambassador will not be called by the board, as some associates had requested, but by the MTA’s own high management. The analysis will booty the abode of the absolute appraisal that NYC Alteration Admiral Andy Byford had vowed to alone accept as allotment of his “commitment to the public.”
By all indications, the alteration chief, who will be adulatory his one year ceremony at the MTA on Wednesday, has been finer alone by the new L alternation plans. During Tuesday’s meeting, Ferrer appear that the MTA’s Capital Construction division, headed by Janno Lieber, would be demography over the activity from NYC Transit, which Byford leads. MTA managing Administrator Veronique Hakim will now be “directly amenable for supervision” of the plan.
At some point, the MTA will apparently absolution an absolute engineering plan analogue the specifics of what the new abeyance another will entail. They’ll eventually accept to bulk out aloof how abundant of the bank bank is unstable, and will acceptable charge to get a adjourned arrangement accomplished the added agnostic associates of the MTA’s board. But for now, not accepting those capacity in abode doesn’t assume to be endlessly anyone from agronomics ahead. “We appetite to move this activity along,” Ferrer said. “We appetite to do it safely, we appetite to do it well, but we appetite to do it expeditiously, too.”
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The abutting MTA lath affair is appointed for Thursday, January 24th. Hopefully, we’ll apperceive added by then.
Additional advertisement from WNYC’s Stephen Nessen.
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