It will be interesting to see if the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chair Joe Lhota will be any more successful than Jay Walder and his predecessors in dealing with the challenges ahead.
The original proposed $29 billion Five Year Capital Plan was cut to $24 billion, but still faces a $9 billion shortfall. Proposed plans to borrow another $9 billion will just increase the MTA’s long term debt from $30 to $39 billion. Yearly service payments on the debt will take an even bigger chunk out of the budget, leaving even less money for routine capital improvements, let alone any system expansion.
Only Uncle Sam, New York State, New York City, California and several other states carry more long-term debt than the MTA.
For decades, under numerous past MTA Five Year Capital Plans, both the city and state collectively cut billions of their own respective financial contributions. They repeatedly had the MTA refinance or borrow funds to acquire scarce capital funding formerly made up by hard cash from both City Hall and Albany.
Will Lhota be able to convince his benefactor – Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg – to contribute their fair share? Time will tell.