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June 12, 2007

MTA Capital Security Program Falls
Further Behind Schedule

Despite Delays, System More Secure Because of MTA Actions

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) fell further behind schedule over the past eight months in its efforts to complete capital investments designed to improve security, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. While the delay in completing the capital security program continues to grow, the report concludes that the regional mass transit system is more secure today than before September 11, 2001 because the MTA has made significant security improvements.

"The system is safer and more secure than it was before September 11th, but it's not where it should be," DiNapoli said. "The trend of growing delays and rising costs that we've seen over the past two years must come to an end."

The MTA has undertaken a two-phased capital program to improve security at the system’s most vulnerable and heavily used assets, such as stations, transit hubs, bridges and tunnels. Security improvements include perimeter protection, structural hardening, improved fire/life/safety and evacuation, and electronic security and surveillance.

The report finds that six of 33 planned construction tasks were completed as of March 16, 2007 and another 15 were started. In addition, the MTA implemented a number of operational initiatives and has taken additional steps to improve the security of the mass transit system. Nevertheless, the report finds that the capital security projects are taking longer and costing more than expected.

“The MTA has made progress, but the percentage of construction tasks behind schedule has nearly doubled in the past eight months alone,” DiNapoli said. “While some of the delays were relatively small, the MTA needs to address this problem before it spirals out of control.”

Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, announced that he has taken a number of steps to minimize additional delays and costs. These include consolidating responsibility for the security program, establishing milestones and instituting weekly meetings of senior managers to track the program’s progress and additional internal oversight. These steps complement operational security improvements put in place since Sander assumed his position in January, most notably Operation Directed Patrol, which has dramatically increased police presence on MTA commuter trains.

DiNapoli said his office would continue to monitor the MTA’s progress and is hopeful that the measures Sander outlined will help the authority adhere to its revised construction schedules and spending forecast.

“Despite the delays, the MTA has made substantial progress hardening facilities and safeguarding the public,” DiNapoli said. “The biggest concern now is to stem the growing delay and to get the rest of these security improvements completed as quickly as possible. The new management team under Lee Sander is taking steps to get the capital security program back on track.”

“The MTA’s top priority is ensuring that our customers enjoy the safest and most secure commutes possible,” Sander said. “We are proud of the tremendous security improvements that have been made to the system, from hardening our infrastructure to dramatically increasing police presence throughout the MTA network. We continue to aggressively pursue a program of security investments that will make the system even more secure. We are working hard to develop solutions for the numerous unpredictable challenges associated with securing a 19th century system for 21st century threats with 21st century technology.”

This is the third in a series of progress reports on the first phase of the capital security program, which included 16 projects. Each project involves one or more facilities and entails one or more security improvements, such as construction tasks. The 16 projects entail a total of 33 separate construction tasks. The current report relies on three quantitative measures to gauge the progress of the MTA’s capital security program as of March 16, 2007.

The first measure tracks the number of projects in the design and construction phases, and the number of completed projects.

  • Only one project was completed during the eight-month period covered by the report, which brings the number of completed projects to two—six fewer than originally planned. Three other capital security projects had made substantial progress but were not completed.
  • Only one project progressed from the design to the construction phase in the past eight months, leaving five projects in the design stage. By comparison, four projects progressed from design to construction during the six-month period covered in the October 2006 report.

The second measure tracks each project’s progress toward its scheduled completion date by comparing the MTA’s latest projected completion date or actual completion date against baseline schedules that were developed by the MTA in late 2003 and early 2004. According to the MTA, these baseline schedules were the earliest schedules to include both start and completion dates.

  • As of March 16, 2007, eight of the 16 projects were one year or more behind schedule, including six projects that were two years or more behind schedule. (In the October 2006 report, three projects were two years or more behind schedule as of July 15, 2006.)

The third measure compares the status of individual security improvements (i.e., construction tasks) against the schedules that were established at the time the construction contract was awarded. The current report finds that, as of March 16, 2007:

  • Of the 33 construction tasks planned for Phase 1, six had been completed and another 15 were in progress.
  • 52 percent of the construction tasks (11 of 21 tasks) were behind the schedules that were established when the contract was awarded, nearly double the rate as of July 15, 2006. Five of the 11 tasks were four or more months behind schedule.
  • The electronic security program had fallen two months behind the schedule established when the construction contract was awarded—the first delay since the Office of the State Comptroller began monitoring the program. While the delay is relatively small—only two months—it may portend further delays.

The report also found that the cost of Phase 1 has effectively grown from $591 million to $815 million, an increase of $224 million, or 38 percent. This estimate includes the cost of renovating two “high-priority” facilities that were planned as part of Phase 1 but have since been deferred to Phase 2.

According to the MTA, projects are taking longer and costing more than expected due to the complexity of retrofitting a 100-year-old transit system to deal with never-anticipated post-9/11 security threats. It also took longer to develop a consensus among stakeholders on proposed improvements; second opinions were sought on some projects; additional facilities were added and the scope broadened on others; and it took longer than expected to obtain permits from federal, State and City agencies even though the process was expedited. Some projects encountered other difficulties, such as unexpected site conditions.

Click here for a copy of the report.


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