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Report: MTA still lags on subway security projects

(The following story by Joshua Rhett Miller appeared on the Metro New York website on June 13.)

MANHATTAN — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s multifaceted capital security program continues to fall behind schedule, according to a report released yesterday.

The third in a series of reports by the state comptroller’s office analyzing 57 security-related MTA projects to harden a total of 734 subway and commuter rail stations throughout the system found that as of March 16, only two had been completed, six fewer than planned. Moreover, eight of 16 projects remain one year or more behind schedule as established by the MTA in late 2003 and early 2004.

“The percentage of construction tasks behind schedule nearly doubled since our last review,” the report read. “Whereas 27 percent of construction tasks were behind schedule in October 2006, our latest review finds that 52 percent of tasks were behind schedule in March.”

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s latest report, and the one issued in October 2006, found that despite missed targets, the MTA is making progress.

The entire system, according to the reports, is safer than it was before 9/11 due to coordinated efforts by the MTA, NYPD and the federal government. For example, the MTA’s police department has expanded by 201 employees since 2001, an increase of 42 percent. It has also assigned 75 officers to counter-terrorism duties, including a canine unit with 50 bomb-sniffing dogs.

“The system is safer and more secure ... 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.”

MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander, addressing reporters at a separate event, said delays from design to construction are due to “extremely complicated, extremely problematic” conditions, but declined to give specific details on projects.

“I think we have tightened up our oversight process and coordinating process,” Sander continued. “If this was not about security, I would be speaking in exquisite detail about the projects.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Rundle.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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