MTA capital funding gap could mean more fare, toll hikes, report says

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on March

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on March 14, 2012. (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

The MTA will likely come up with only half of about $27 billion the agency says it needs for infrastructure investments over the next five years, and could resort to additional fare and toll hikes to make up some of the remaining cost, a new state report said Thursday.

The report from the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could reasonably expect to secure about $14 billion of its next five-year capital plan from its usual sources, including money from its operating budget, MTA-issued bonds, and aid from New York City, and state and federal governments.

"How the MTA and its funding partners close the funding gap could have implications on future fares and tolls," the report said. "For example, additional borrowing could increase pressure to raise fares and tolls unless new revenue streams were created to support it."

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast repeatedly referenced that increasing pressure during recent negotiations with Long Island Rail Road unions, with whom the MTA reached a tentative contract agreement last week. Prendergast has said giving subway and LIRR workers raises meant diverting as much as $110 million from a $370 million "pay as you go" fund aimed at helping pay down infrastructure projects as they were happening.

According to the report, although the MTA has spent more than $90 billion on infrastructure since its first capital plan in 1980, "Achieving a state of good repair throughout the system has been elusive." Even if its next capital plan is fully funded, the MTA would still not be able to complete the additional $105.7 billion in work necessary to get its entire system in good shape over the next 20 years, the report said.

The MTA will present its proposed 2015-2019 capital plan to the MTA board next month.

In a statement, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency concurs "with the basic parameters of the report." As important as the capital plan is today, Donovan said it will become more important in the future as the MTA shores up its system against storms as damaging as superstorm Sandy.

"Like all transit systems in America, the capital plan will always require public financial support and we look forward to a robust discussion with our elected officials and stakeholders to identify resources," Donovan said.

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