Schumer gets the MTA all wrong


To the editor:

(re: “Federal shutdown threatens struggling MTA,” Jan. 17)

Sen. Chuck Schumer was incorrect concerning the status of Federal Transit Administration funding to the MTA during the federal shutdown.

Schumer misspoke when he said, “With each passing month of the partial government shutdown, the MTA stands to lose $150 million per month in federal funds.

Without federal funds from Washington, which are allocated for track repair and construction projects, the MTA may have to cut back service or borrow money.”

The MTA currently receives more than $1.4 billion annually from the FTA. Most federal transportation grants require a 20 percent hard-cash local share. FTA accepted toll credits instead of hard cash for the local share. This saved the MTA more than $1 billion in the previous 2010-14 five-year capital program. Even more savings will occur under the current 2015-19 five-year capital program.

Washington will eventually make available more than $1.4 billion in 2019 FTA formula funding for the MTA. This helps pay for a significant portion of its capital program. This includes approximately $30 million in buses and bus facilities, $650 million in state of good repair funding, and $675 million in urbanized area federal funding.

There are other opportunities for up to several hundred million more in discretionary competitive federal grants.

Every year, the MTA takes advantage of FTA pre-award authority prior to grant approval. Use of pre-award authority affords the MTA an opportunity to start projects months earlier and incur costs for reimbursement at a later date after grant approval and obligation of funding.

The MTA currently manages an active portfolio of federally funded capital improvement projects and programs in open grants worth more than $12 billion in direct FTA financial assistance. Contrary to Schumer’s assertions, there has never been a loss of FTA funds.

The MTA’s 2019 calendar year program of projects continues to progress. Again, Schumer is incorrect when claiming that there could be a loss of service due to any delays in obligation of FTA funds. This has never been the case.

The MTA lays out far more than $150 million annually many months in advance, knowing it will be reimbursed upon FTA grant obligation later in the year. Gov. Cuomo has forced the MTA to borrow billions due to his multi-year delay in coming up with 100 percent of his $8.5 billion share to fund the current capital plan.

Schumer is never shy around a camera or microphone. He has never held one of his famous Sunday press conferences in Albany to criticize Cuomo for his failure to fully fund the MTA.

Sen. Schumer would do better by taxpayers and riders to stop engaging in scare mongering. Try working with Congress and the president in passing a full one-year appropriation of funding by Oct. 1, instead of relying on a series of stop-gap continuing resolutions.

Larry Penner

Larry Penner,