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MTA budget woes might sideline boro projects

The financial plight of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will sideline long-planned subway station upgrades and renovations in Queens as well as other parts of the city, transit officials said last week.

"The capital program has some shortfalls in it and we will not be able to fund all the projects in it," MTA Chief Elliot Sander said.

Sander spoke after the monthly meeting of the MTA board April 30.

The $3 billion gap in the $21 billion budget for the capital program is not expected to stop the so-called mega projects like the Second Avenue Subway and the East Side Access to bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal.

What it will curtail are a number of subway station improvements, including five to eight A train stations along Rockaway Peninsula, as well as other stations in Queens and citywide, although transit officials have yet to decide on which would be delayed.

Transit officials said it would likely also put on hold purchasing new subway cars and buses and delay some other projects.

The MTA has endured a string of heavy financial blows recently, including the collapse of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, when the state Assembly did not even vote on it.

The demise of congestion pricing cost the MTA $254 million in federal funds, and a faltering real estate market has meant millions less in fees and charges from real estate transactions that helped fuel the MTA for several years.

To open the MTA board meeting, Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger appealed to the transit riding multitudes to consider themselves as stakeholders and partners in the transit system.

"We on the MTA board will, assuredly, do our part, but I am asking all of you to take ownership in what we are doing to move the MTA ahead," Hemmerdinger said. "This is a partnership and we need each other to make it a go."

Hemmerdinger said that as chairman he would make it his mission to get more riders to see themselves as the system's owners and our partners in keeping it running and in good shape."

He asked riders to "let your elected officials know that the transit system matters to you and how you think it should be improved. Be supportive of government funding, but expect financial clarity, budget transparency and operational efficiency in return."

Hemmerdinger said the transit system "belongs to the public. They just don't always see it that way."

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136

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