Larry Penner, Transportation Historian, Advocate, and Writer, and Hezi Aris, Yonkers Tribune Editor-at-Large on Westchester On the Level – Wednesday, February 6, 2019 @10am EST

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Larry Penner, a transportation historian, advocate, and writer who previously worked for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office for 31 years attends the opening segment of the broadcast day. His work included the review, approval and oversight for billions of dollars in capital assistance grants to the MTA, including Metro North. His studied premises took written form in his article, “Metro North Penn Station Access Still Has Fatal Flaws By Larry Penner”

We delve into the following issues / concerns:

1) History of project

2) The Budget

* Funding Shortfalls which need to be resolved ($695 million available, $605 million needed in next MTA 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan)

* Competition from other projects for funding in next MTA 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan

3) Current Status of Project

4) Implementation Schedule

* Progress from planning to environmental, preliminary design and engineering, final design and engineering, procurement process to hire construction contractor, contract award, notice to proceed, construction, beneficial use

* Actual year service may or may not start

* Role of Amtrak in progression of project

* Role of Amtrak major overhaul of East River Tunnels on project

5) Relationship between frequency of service and fare structure to ridership.

6) Access to four new Bronx Stations (parking, walking, local bus feeder service)

7) Impact on Westchester, Connecticut New Haven branch riders time wise when trains add stops in the Bronx

8) Sunnyside Yard Queens Station (part of East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal)

9) Penn Station rush hour versus non rush hour capacity to accommodate new Metro North Bronx East service

10) Manhattan LIRR West Side and Queens Sunnyside Yards mid- day storage capacity for new Metro North trains

11) Capacity issues for NYC Transit subway at Penn Station to accommodate thousands of new Metro North riders

12) Amtrak/LIRR/New Jersey Penn Station Master Operating Agreement revision needed to accommodate Metro North

13) Other LIRR, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit needs for new services at Penn Station competing against Metro North

14) Bronx West Side Access to Penn Station via Amtrak Manhattan West Side corridor

Other issues and concerns:

1) Building a new facility at Penn Station for Metro North would cost billions. New Jersey Transit has a similar idea which would cost $5 billion. How will funding concerns be resolved?

2) The New York State Thruway Authority saved $1 billion in construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge by not including heavy rail capacity.  This would have afforded future Metro North service via the Hudson Line to Grand Central Terminal. What was the logic not building and incorporating the rail service into Rockland? Will this omission cost more over time? How long will it take for demographic changes take before it becomes a must have circumstance?

3) Metro North has a feasibility study to look at the restoration of Hudson service along a freight line adjacent to the river which could serve Rockland County.

4) There is also a $500 million proposal as part of the full build $29 billion Gateway Tunnel project to build a connection for Port Jervis and Pacack Valley line Metro North service at Secaucus which would allow trains to directly switch to the Northeast Corrridor. This could provide a one seat ride for Rockland County Metro North riders to Penn Station.

# # #

Larry Penner’s biography and resume of accomplishment are undeniable and impeccable:

Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate, and writer who previously worked for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office for 31 years. His work included the review, approval and oversight for billions of dollars in capital assistance grants to the MTA, including Metro North.

He began his career with the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now known as the Federal Transit Administration) Region 2 New York office in January,1983.  His first assignment was to oversee the various grants programs for the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, Nassau County, City of Long Beach and New York City Department of Transportation.  Nassau County provides funding for Long Island Bus with a fleet of 280 buses.  During the 1980’s they engaged in the construction of both Rockville Centre and Mitchell Field Bus garages along with the Hempstead Multimodal Bus Terminal and later, the Stewart Avenue Paratransit facility.  The combined costs for all four projects totaled over $110 million dollars.  The New York City Department of Transportation previously provided funding for seven private bus operators (today’s MTA Bus) whose combined fleets total over 1300 buses and 8 bus garages.  During his time as Project Manager, funding was provided to replace all 1300 buses as they became eligible along with construction of two new bus garages, College Point, Queens and Spring Creek, Brooklyn.  Total costs for all of these were over $400 million dollars.  NYCDOT also operates the Staten Island Ferry.  This is the nation’s largest municipal ferry system moving over 66,000 daily riders between Staten Island and Manhattan.

In 1984, after the retirement of a Regional Engineer, Mr. Penner was also assigned the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).  At the time, a new $600 million Light Rail system was under construction.  The NFTA also funded three major new bus garage facilities, Cold Spring, Babcock and Frontier, whose combined costs were over $100 million dollars.

In 1985, Mr. Penner was assigned management of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), the nation’s largest Metropolitan Planning Organization serving NYC, Long Island, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties.

In 1989, the MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) was suspended from Urban Mass Transportation Administration for a period of 18 months.  This was due to over $100 million dollars in cost overruns for the Jamaica, Queens Holban Hillside Maintenance facility. In 1990, Mr. Penner was assigned to manage this agency.  The LIRR is the nation’s largest commuter railroad, moving over 265,000 daily from Long Island to New York City.  They receive over $100 million dollars per year.  Mr. Penner played an active role in LIRR’s ability to justify resuming eligibility for Federal Transit Administration funding in 1991.  Since that time, a majority of federally funded projects and programs have been completed on time and within budget. From 1989 to 2001, Mr. Penner directly managed the LIRR federally funded capital grants program.  From 2001 to the end of 2014, he was the direct supervisor of staff performing the same function.

In 1999, as part of Regional Office reorganization, Mr. Penner was assigned Metro North Commuter Rail Road, Connecticut Department of Transportation )CDOT) and overall coordination with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  Metro North is the nation’s second largest commuter rail road moving over 160,000 riders daily.  CDOT manages the New Haven, New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury branches of Metro North.  These provide service from Connecticut to NYC. Both Metro North and CDOT receive over $125 million dollars per year.  The MTA is the nation’s largest transportation provider and receives over $1.4 billion dollars per year for various New York City Transit, LIRR and Metro North Capital projects.

In 2001, Mr. Penner was selected to become the Director for Office of Management and Program Oversight for Region 2. His staff ranged from 6 to 10 employees.  They were responsible for the management of three to five Program Management Oversight (PMO) Engineering Consulting Firms (covering New York City Transit, LIRR, Metro North, CONNDOT, NYCDOT and New Jersey Transit projects ranging from $100 million to several billion), Triennial, Procurement, Financial and State Management Reviews. This included monthly meetings with each PMO along with yearly workshops under each consultants respective oversight review program for grantees.  His staff managed basic 5307, 5309. 5310, 5311 and various other Notice of Available Discretionary Funding (NOFA) Federal Transit Administration grant programs.  This usually included annual Program of Projects Meetings in preparation for submittal of formal grant applications along with one to four yearly Capital Program Progress Review Meetings for each grantee.  The number of meetings was based upon the complexity and dollar value for each grantees annual Capital Program.  With 36 designated recipients in New York and New Jersey, Region 2 reviews, approves and obligates over 100 grants worth $2,4 billion on an average year.  The staff and Mr. Penner managed an active portfolio of grants containing over $10 billion worth of capital improvement projects and programs.  This also included review and approval for Project Management and Fleet Management Plans.

Mr. Penner’s limited staff and he managed an active portfolio of federally funded capital improvement projects and programs in open grants in direct FTA financial assistance worth over $10 billion to the MTA (New York City Transit Bus and Subway, LIRR, Metro North and MTA Bus, which included $500 million worth for the Long Island Rail Road & Metro North Rail Road, $2 billion for New Jersey Transit, $100 million for Nassau County with funding passed on to NICE Bus and $70 million for Westchester County Bee Line Bus.  One of their goals was to insure that federally funded capital improvement projects were completed on time, within budget accompanied by as few change orders as possible.  Taxpayers and the riding public are entitled to 100% return on the investments they are paying for.

Mr. Penner retired at the end of 2014.

Today he is a transportation advocate, a historian, and writer supporting safe and cost effective mass transit





eHeziLarry Penner, Transportation Historian, Advocate, and Writer, and Hezi Aris, Yonkers Tribune Editor-at-Large on Westchester On the Level – Wednesday, February 6, 2019 @10am EST

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