MTA cuts $16.5B from budget as congestion pricing halt stalls key projects

The cost of losing congestion pricing was put in real terms Wednesday, as the MTA's full board voted to cut $16.5 billion from its capital budget. 

This means antiquated signal systems at the heart of subway delays won't be replaced, the extension of the Second Avenue Subway is halted, new bus purchases are put on hold, and ADA accessibility upgrades at more than two dozen stations have received stop-work orders already. Some may be permanently axed. 

The cuts mean the MTA will move from modernizing to an all-out effort to ensure what they've got works as best as possible.

Speaking before the vote, Janno Lieber, MTA's Chairman and CEO said "We can work to make sure that improvement and expansion projects that are being moved down the list—and the accessibility impacts break my heart—but we can make sure that they are ready to go when the funding shows up."

The budget hole left by Gov. Hochul's decision to suddenly stop congestion pricing is so broad that even state-of-good-repair projects will be cut by $3 billion. Critics fear a repeat of the Summer of Hell from 2017.

Advocates, transportation experts, and lawmakers were amongst some 140 people who signed up for the public comment period at the meeting, to blast the governor's decision.

"I am gravely disappointed in the governor's lack of leadership that has put the health and safety of New Yorkers at risk." said Elizabeth Adams from Transportation Alternatives.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler told the board: "I find Gov. Hochul's indefinite pause of congestion pricing misguided, harmful, and likely unlawful."

The MTA isn't just losing the money that was to come from congestion pricing. Gov. Hochul's reversal may also cost the MTA billions more, with the federal funding that was tied to the Second Avenue Subway now in jeopardy. 

The agency has already spent well over half a billion on getting congestion pricing ready to go. The gantries are up, and congestion pricing was going to pay for it.

In a statement following the board's vote, Hochul says she's looking for ways to replace the lost revenue, but so far, that hasn't materialized.