Brooklyn Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo toured the Avenue M Station in the Midwood section of Brooklyn to demonstrate track improvement work that will be accelerated now that the Subway Action Plan is fully funded. Some 39.8 miles of track will be outfitted with continuously welded rail, which eliminates rail joints in the system that can serve as key points of failure and cause delays. Increased continuously welded rail will produce a safer, quieter, more stable and comfortable ride for customers. Thanks to full funding of the action plan, the MTA will double the rate it is installing the continuous welded rail, from 19.9 miles to 39.8 miles of track by the end of the year.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. I want to thank Chairman Joe Lhota who is doing a great job. And the entire team, Charlie Hall, Sally Librera and Frank Jezycki. What the Subway Action Plan funding now allows us to do is really get to work. We underfunded the subway system for 50, 60, 70 years. We have 50-year-old subway cars running. We have 100-year-old electric switches that are in the subway system. And you could ask, well why didn’t you maintain it? Why didn’t you change the signals as they got old? The answer is, it was a question of funding. And just the way people in their own homes tend to put maintenance last, the government put maintenance last. It was a question of money. We didn’t want to raise tolls. We didn’t want to raise fares. So we sacrificed the maintenance and the upgrade of the system. You then hit a critical point where the system starts to degrade and 100-year-old switches failed. Surprise, surprise, and 50-year-old cars failed. Surprise, surprise.
We developed the Subway Action Plan last year with Chairman Joe Lhota’s leadership. It required $869 million to do short-term emergency repairs. We couldn’t even get that funding and we spent over a year fighting for funding for the Subway Action Plan. In the past state budget, the state budget requires that New York City pays its fair share. Tolls don’t go up, fares don’t go up, but now the Subway Action Plan is fully funded and now we can get to work. And we’ve seen in the past few weeks, we’ve accelerated the car rehabilitation process, the signal rehabilitation process, and the track rehabilitation process.
What you’re seeing now, as you’ve heard, is fixing the joints that are every 39 feet. That’s how the system was built. It was built with a 39-foot length of the rail. Over the years, the gap between those rails gets bigger, the alignment gets worse, the disruption as the wheels go over that bump get worse. It’s uncomfortable for the riders, but it’s actually worse for the equipment. It degrades the equipment and most significantly it can trigger what we call a false red signal. You have that disruption, the system detects that disruption, it turns the signal red. When the signal turns red, everything stops and that train stops. When that train stops – the train behind it stops, the train behind it stops, and the train behind it stops. And safety is our first concern. You can’t move that train until you diagnose the problem. Which means a team has to come out, go through the whole train and determine what happened and determine if whether or not, that joint caused the disruption which caused the signal to go to red. What this does – let me finish and then you can always talk. Also if you notice, as a sign of courtesy to your sensitivity, we did not invite you on the track this time, so I don’t get criticized for endangering the lives of reporters.
So every 39 feet you have those welds. This system connects the weld, smooths them out, we now have a continuous welded rail for 390 feet before you have a joint. This should have been done all along. Why wasn’t it done all along? Because the MTA didn’t have the money to do it. It keeps coming back to the money. It is personnel intensive as you saw. The system is tremendous. MTA didn’t have the money to do this work. MTA also didn’t have the money to purchase better welding equipment which is expensive but which will save money in the longer term which is an electric weld. Rather than igniting gunpowder and steel and having it melt and then bang away the excess and grind and file. An electric welding machine is much faster, much safer, less personnel, but you have to buy the electric welders. The Subway Action Plan will allow us to do that.
We were at the Tappan Zee Bridge yesterday and it is the same lesson over and over and over. The Tappan Zee for 20 years caused delays, caused traffic, was very expensive to maintain, but we – society – didn’t want to invest in a new bridge. So we suffered delays, we suffered commuters anguish. We spent a lot of money to keep the old bridge up. It was all a waste. We should have been more long sighted and we should have said, let’s build a new bridge. In the long-term, it is cheaper but for 20 years we didn’t do it. We didn’t learn the lesson that at one point it costs less to actually spend more to make the improvements. And that’s the same story with the MTA. The Subway Action Plan, together with the congestion pricing, is the metaphor of the new Tappan Zee. Do it right. Do it right it will be faster, it will be cheaper in the long term but you have to invest early on. We now have a new Tappan Zee Bridge being built. It’s on time, it’s on budget. Once we decide to do it, we can do it. The trick is getting the political will to make the decision to do it.
My father, God rest his soul, used to talk about Aristotle’s formula for success. Which I don’t really believe was Aristotle’s formula for success but I think he said that to give it greater credibility. He said two steps, one caveat. Marcia will remember this. Step one is deciding what you want to do. Step two is to do it. The caveat is, step one is very difficult. Deciding what you want to do. We didn’t decide what to do on the Tappan Zee Bridge for 20 years. We didn’t decide what to do on the MTA for 50, 60, 70 years. Decide what you want to do. We need to improve the system. We need to invest. We need to improve on it dramatically. We have now decided that we’re going to do it. That’s the Subway Action Plan funding and that’s congestion pricing. Now do it. We have the personnel. We have the expertise. We have the ability. We’re now doing it. The caveat was the difficult point. Getting the funding and getting the commitment and the political will to actually make the changes.