- A New York Times report found that New York City transit projects cost far more than in comparable cities throughout the world.
- The costs result from generous compensation for workers and high costs from contractors.
- The report found that unions and contractors donated millions to political campaigns, including those involving Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The New York City subway system has come under fire for being unreliable, with delays increasing dramatically in the past five years.
Now, after detailing how maintenance funding for the subways had long been cut or diverted for other uses, The New York Times has revealed in a recent report that transportation construction projects in New York are also often significantly more expensive than in other major cities.
A project connecting the Long Island Rail Road commuter train to Grand Central Terminal, for example, is projected to cost $3.5 billion for every new mile of track, which The Times said was seven times the worldwide average elsewhere. The report found that projects were routinely overstaffed and overpriced relative to comparable projects elsewhere as labor unions and contractors profited at the city’s expense.
The Times found that one union ensured most of its workers were paid $111 an hour in salary and benefits. And in some cases, construction projects in New York were staffed by up to four times as many workers as for similar projects in Asia, Australia, and Europe.
According to the report, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subways and buses and some of its commuter trains, said the city had unique conditions requiring inflated costs, but The Times found that those claims may have been exaggerated after interviewing more than 50 contractors and analyzing MTA projects and pricing data.
According to The Times, labor unions and contractors were able to negotiate labor prices without input from any New York City agencies and frequently gave campaign donations to political campaigns – including those involving Gov. Andrew Cuomo – and often hired MTA employees. And since contractors who could perform underground construction projects didn’t have much competition, they could reportedly add almost 50% to their projected costs when bidding for projects, compared with an average of 10% in other countries, according to The Times.
The MTA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.