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Straphangers Will Foot the Bill for New MTA Capital Plan, MTA Chair Says

By Gwynne Hogan | May 25, 2017 10:35am
 The MTA will take on an additional $5 billion in debt over the next five years under the new plan.
The MTA will take on an additional $5 billion in debt over the next five years under the new plan.
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DNAinfo/Rachelle Blidner

Correction appended.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The MTA board approved an additional $2.88 billion in capital spending Wednesday in order to fund new stations along the Second Avenue Subway line, more clean energy buses, and a third track on the Long Island Railroad, though the increased funds would likely mean higher tolls and fares for riders down the line, a board member said.

While the authority's Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran assured board members the increased capital plan wouldn't translate into increased tolls and fares in the short term, his promises did little to quell the worries of board member Veronica Vanterpool, who said they wouldn't be able to stave off debt-related fair hikes after 2019.

"In the outlying years ... we cannot guarantee that there will not be pressure on service and fares," Vanterpool said, who voted against the updated capital plan Wednesday. "It is a crushing amount of debt and business has to change."

When asked by reporters if the additional $5 billion will be straddled on straphangers in the coming years acting MTA Chair Fernando Ferrer said, "of course it means that. And it also means that the state and federal government [need to] step up as well."

The additional funds will go toward big capital projects such as building Second Avenue subway stops at 106th Street, 116th Street and 125th Street, building a link up at Penn Station to Metro-North trains and adding a third track to parts of the Long Island Railroad.

They'll also go towards adding more Select Bus Service routes, rolling out a new "contactless" fare payment system and purchasing new subway cars, 275 hybrid-electric buses and 50 fully electric buses, according to the plan.

"Do we have to borrow if we want things? We absolutely do. Are we ready to do that, do we have the capacity to do that? Yes we do," said Ferrer. "We have a measurable need, a demonstrable need for more rolling stock, more subway cars, more buses, better buses. The fleet is aging."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original story stated that the chairman said that the increased debt would mean fare increases. He said that the riders will bear the burden for repaying the capital costs, but did not say it would be through fare increases.