The MTA’s biggest money pit

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With the start of LIRR service into Grand Central Terminal still at least four years off, the estimated cost of the project last week jumped another $1 billion, to $11 billion and likely still rising.

Early estimates had the East Side Access job running $2.2 billion and finishing by 2009. And MTA board member Scott Rechler says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more cost overruns.”

No, current MTA management isn’t to blame for this mess. But the agency’s leaders have yet to show they’re changing the culture that produced it. A culture that only discovered, years into the project, that it was paying 200 extra workers who had no actual duties (out of 900 total) around $1,000 a day each on the East Side Access project.

As a landmark New York Times investigation showed last year, the MTA’s construction costs are far, far higher than even those in such equally high-cost, union-friendly cities as London and Paris, and seven times the world average for similar urban projects.

The extra billions needlessly squandered on the East Side Access money pit, and on the Second Avenue Subway, have sucked cash from other transit priorities — such as track and signal repairs and upgrades.

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