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October 3, 2006

MTA Capital Security Projects Fall
Further Behind Schedule

However, More Projects Now in Construction

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has fallen further behind schedule in its efforts to harden critical facilities and to install electronic security devices, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi. The MTA, however, is making progress. Nearly twice as many projects are now in construction compared with six months ago.

“Implementing the capital security program is taking much longer and costing more than the MTA had expected, but the MTA is making progress. While the MTA has implemented a number of operational initiatives and has taken other interim steps that have improved the security of the mass transit system, the system is still not as secure as it should be,” Hevesi said.

The Comptroller’s report is the second in a series of reports that focus on the progress of the MTA’s capital security program. As of July 15, 2006, 16 capital construction projects comprised Phase 1 of the capital security program. Each project entails one or more facilities and may involve one or more security improvement. The construction projects target the MTA’s most vulnerable and heavily used assets, such as stations, transit hubs, bridges, and tunnels. Security improvement efforts include perimeter protection, structural hardening, improved fire/life/safety and evacuation, and electronic security and surveillance.

The Comptroller believes that the public has a right to know how well the MTA is progressing with the implementation of planned capital security projects, but that need must be balanced against the release of information that could compromise security. For this reason, the report does not discuss the status of individual security projects or the status of a particular asset class or mitigation. Instead, it focuses on the overall progress of the capital security program.

To determine whether the capital security program has advanced as planned, the Comptroller’s staff examined the construction schedules and budgets that were prepared by the MTA in late 2003 and early 2004. For this second report, those schedules were compared with the MTA’s projections as of July 15, 2006. In the first report released in March 2006, the Comptroller found that only one of the 16 high priority construction projects planned for Phase 1 of the capital security program had been completed. The current report focuses on the status of the 15 construction projects yet to be completed during Phase 1.

Based on MTA projections as of July 15, 2006, the report finds that:

  • 11 of the 15 projects lost time since we last reported in March 2006, including nine projects that were behind schedule at the time of our last report and two projects that were on or ahead of schedule.
  • Ten projects (two thirds of the total) were one year or more behind schedule, including six projects that were 20 months or more behind schedule. (In our last review, five projects were one year or more behind schedule.)
  • The MTA had originally planned to complete a total of eight projects by the end of 2006, but only two projects were expected to be finished by that time based on the July 15, 2006 forecasts.
  • While projects are taking longer than the MTA had anticipated, there has been progress. Nine projects were in the construction stage—four more than when we last reported in March 2006.
  • In total, 15 of 34 planned construction tasks were in progress, and 11 were on or ahead of the schedule established at the time the construction contract was awarded.

According to the MTA, projects are taking longer and costing more than expected for a number of reasons. Projects are more complicated than initially assumed, and many are unprecedented in the construction field. It also took longer than expected to develop a consensus among stakeholders on proposed mitigations; second opinions were sought on some projects; and additional facilities were added and the scope was broadened on others. Some projects encountered other difficulties, such as unexpected site conditions.

It also took longer than expected to obtain permits from federal, State, and City agencies even though the process was expedited according to the MTA. Five projects were adversely affected by delays in obtaining permits. The MTA had anticipated that the process would take five months to complete, but it has taken, on average, about one year and in some cases more than one year has elapsed and the permits are still pending. The adverse impact on the start of construction, however, was significantly less—about three months—because the MTA accelerated the procurement process.

“The federal, state and city governments ought to review their process for granting permits for security related projects to ensure that their permitting processes do not unnecessarily delay these essential security improvements,” Hevesi said.

The report also finds that the federal government has not allocated sufficient resources to secure the nation’s mass transportation systems and that the New York City metropolitan region has not received its fair share based on ridership.

  • In FFY 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allocated $130 million to mass transit security and $5 billion to aviation security. This funding trend continued in FFY 2006, when the DHS allocated $131 million for transit security and $5.8 billion for aviation security even though passenger rail systems carry 16 times more passengers than commercial airlines. (Congress recommends spending $175 million on transit security in FFY 2007 and $6 billion on aviation security.)
  • The report also finds that in federal fiscal year 2006 the New York City metropolitan area received less than its fair share of federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security. Although the New York City metropolitan area accounts for almost 59 percent of all rail passenger trips in the nation, it received 43 percent of the funding allocated for rail transit security. (Last year, it received only 35 percent). While the allocation to the New York City metropolitan area was the largest to any city, it represented only $0.02 per New York City rider, which was less than the rate per rider that most other cities received.

“The federal government spends $8 on security for each person who flies, but spends pennies on those who ride the mass transit system,” Hevesi said.

According to documents submitted by the MTA to the Comptroller’s Office, the cost of Phase 1 of the security program, as of July 15, 2006, was expected to total $735.6 million—$145 million more than planned and an increase of $14.2 million since our last review. The electronic security program accounts for 57 percent of the projected cost of the capital security program and most of the growth in the cost of the capital security program. The growth in the cost of Phase 1 would have been even higher if not for the cancellation of one entire project, which had an estimated cost of $33 million, and four other security improvements.

The MTA informed the Comptroller’s staff that the cost of Phase 1 had been reduced to $719.8 million as of September 7, 2006 by deferring, until Phase 2, construction work on two facilities. Staff was also told that the design work for these two facilities has been completed, but that MTA has not yet allocated resources so these “high-priority” projects can proceed.

The unplanned costs in the capital security program are affecting the MTA’s operating budget. As a result, the MTA has had to allocate $94 million that could have been used to help close projected budget gaps.

The report also finds that the MTA still has not begun Phase 2 of the capital security program even though it is part of the MTA’s 2005-2009 capital program. According to MTA officials, the program has not advanced because the MTA has not yet been successful in its efforts to obtain federal funding. In addition, the program has been under review—for more than one year—in response to the July 2005 terrorist attacks on the London transit system.

Phase 2 was originally estimated to cost $495 million, but MTA officials acknowledge that it will cost more than originally planned unless steps are taken to either reduce the cost or scale back the scope of projects. The MTA is reviewing a draft report prepared by an outside consultant to determine if the terrorist threat has changed since September 11, 2001, and if so how to adjust Phase 2 to reflect the new security priorities.

Despite the delays in the capital security program, the report concludes that the mass transit system is more secure than before 9/11 because one capital security project has been completed and because the MTA has implemented a number of operational initiatives and has taken other steps to improve security.

As noted in our prior report, among the steps taken by the MTA to improve security include:

  • The MTA has increased the number of uniformed personnel in the MTA Police Department (MTAPD) by 201, an increase of 42 percent, and has assigned 75 officers to counterterrorism operations, including a ten-person Emergency Services Unit and a Canine Unit with 35 bomb-sniffing dogs.
  • To coordinate and oversee the MTA’s security activities, the MTA created the Office of Public Safety and the Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force (ICTF). The ICTF engages in outreach to local police and emergency service providers, and produces a daily intelligence briefing on transit-related threats and terrorist activities that is shared with and used by approximately 350 transit and security agencies worldwide.
  • The MTA has successfully implemented a public relations campaign that features the slogan “If You See Something, Say Something” to alert the public to suspicious activity.
  • The MTA’s agencies have implemented a number of security improvements pending the completion of certain capital security projects. These include closed circuit television cameras and explosive and chemical detection equipment.

The findings in the report were developed with the cooperation of the MTA and are based on a review of MTA documents and interviews with MTA and other officials. The documents include construction schedules and budget information by asset class (e.g., bridge or station) and by type of risk mitigation or security improvement (e.g., hardening or electronic surveillance). The disclosure of information in the Comptroller’s report meets or exceeds the MTA’s security protocols regarding the dissemination of confidential security information.

The report is a product of an intra-agency task force established by the State Comptroller in September 2005 to monitor implementation of the MTA’s capital security program. The task force draws on resources from throughout the Comptroller's Office and will examine all aspects of the MTA’s security program. As necessary, the task force will continue to conduct financial and contract reviews, audits and investigations.

Click here for a copy of the audit.


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