Cuomo declares 'state of emergency' at MTA

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday declared a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to expedite subway repairs and replacements in the wake of rising delays and accidents.

"We know the system is decaying and we know the system is decaying rapidly. I think of it as a heart attack – it happens all of a sudden and the temptation is to say, well something must have just caused it. No, a lifetime caused it. Bad habits caused it," Cuomo said. "This has been caused over decades, we understand that. But, the delays are maddening New Yorkers. They're infuriated by a lack of communication, unreliability, and now accidents."

Cuomo made the announcement at a planned news conference for the MTA Transit Challenge, a competition that will award three $1 million so-called genius awards for the best ideas to fix the mass transit system. Cuomo said the MTA needs new ideas to solve the problems.

"How do you build cars faster than five years? How do you overhaul cars? Refinish cars faster than what we're doing and cheaper than what we're doing?" Cuomo said. "How do you wire the subway system? How do you get connectivity into the subway system? There have to be better ways to do this. It cannot be about five years and 10 years."

Cuomo also called on the MTA to reorganize and reallocate its finances. He tasked MTA Chairman Joe Lhota with assessing all capital needs of the system within 60 days and to "design the best organization" in 30 days.

"New Yorkers deserve a safe, reliable and viable subway system," Lhota, who was in attendance, said. "That is our goal. That is our charge. That is what we must do."

The governor also asked utility company Con Edison to investigate its equipment, transmission, and interlocks throughout the entire MTA system. Cuomo said he wants Con Ed and the MTA to finish the inspections and repairs within 90 days and then replace "vulnerable cable" at stations that the MTA says are high priority by the end of the year.

Via Twitter, Cuomo later explained more about his declaration.

"This will allow the MTA to speed up the purchase of material and equipment it needs to repair tracks, signals, switches and more," Cuomo said. "New York State will also contribute [$1 billion] in additional funding to the current capital plan- already the largest in history. New York became the great state it is because of a fearless drive to overcome insurmountable challenges. Fixing MTA will be no different."