Despite recent political infighting that allowed it to pass unopposed, the New York City-area Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s historic capital program is moving ahead.

The authority’s $51.5 billion 2020-2024 Capital Program, the largest in MTA history, includes $40 billion for New York City subway and bus projects alone. This week, the agency announced that it is seeking qualified design-build firms to perform work for 23 stations — 17 subway stations, three Staten Island Railway stations, two Long Island Rail Road stations and one Metro-North station.

The work for each station includes:

  • Up to three new elevators, plus the associated structural and excavation work;
  • Any necessary electrical power upgrades;
  • Any necessary station communications systems upgrades;
  • Utility relocation;
  • Replacement, relocation and/or addition of staircase; and
  • Reconstruction of platform edges and/or ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) boarding areas.

Additional work could also be necessary depending on the existing conditions at each station. A total of 70 stations are included in the MTA’s 2020-2024 plan and some of the cost will count toward the $5.2 billion allocated for accessibility.

The announcement follows a contentious battle between two of the region’s top Democratic lawmakers, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who are both members of the MTA’s Capital Program Review Board (CPRB). The four-member board, headed by Cuomo, allowed the program to take effect on Jan. 1 without any changes and without input from de Blasio, Politico reported.

The CPRB includes representatives of the governor, state senate, state assembly and the New York City mayor. Typically, those representatives carry out the board’s responsibilities and powers, which include the right to review, approve and request changes to the capital plan.

In the case of the 2020-2024 plan, Cuomo, who approves all board appointments, requested this year that the heads of the agencies review the plan themselves rather than delegate their duties, and de Blasio refused, so Cuomo did not even convene the board, according to the New York Post, which means the plan went through by default. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie went along with Cuomo and appointed themselves.

During an October interview, Cuomo said that such an important decision should not be delegated to representatives and that “there should be some accountability and transparency and you should be elected by somebody.”

The dust-up between Cuomo and de Blasio has given some who oppose the way the MTA capital plan approval process works the opportunity to raise concerns about transparency since the CPRB does not meet publicly. In fact, according to what Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the Post, the board is not required to meet nor has it ever met.

As part of a streamlining effort, the MTA recently transferred 430 employees from various agency divisions into its new Construction and Development department. By centralizing its construction operations, pursuing alternative delivery methods like design-build and making other sweeping changes to the way it does business, the agency hopes to create new efficiencies and cut costs.