[HOT] – The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth

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Workers in the east side access tunnel, which will connect the Grand Central Terminal of Manhattan to the Long Island Rail Road. Project costs reached nearly $ 3.5 billion for each new kilometer of track. Credit Todd Heisler / The New York Times

An accountant discovered the gap by examining the budget for the new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The budget showed that 900 workers were paid to dig caves for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel linking the historic railway station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant was able to identify only 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. The officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.

"Nobody knew what these people were doing, they were doing something," said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the construction manager. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which handles transit in New York. The workers were fired, said Mr Horodniceanu, but no one has determined how long they have been working. "All we knew was that they each received about $ 1,000 a day."

This discovery, which was not revealed to the public in 2010, illustrates one of the key issues that have contributed to New York's regional transportation system leaders have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to repair existing tunnels, tracks, trains and subway signals

The estimated cost of the Long Island Rail Road project, called "East Side Access", was $ 12 billion, or nearly , $ 5 billion for each new mile of track, seven times the average elsewhere in the world. world. The Second Avenue metro recently completed at Upper East Side in Manhattan and the extension of Line 7 at Hudson Yards in 2015 cost much more than the average, respectively at $ 2.5 billion and $ 1.5 billion. dollars per mile.

occurred even as the MTA The New York Times has documented that generations of politicians have embezzled money from the transport authority and have it in debt.

The Times found that a host of factors have contributed to For years, according to the Times, officials have stayed apart while a small group of unions, of construction companies and politically-related consulting firms amassed large profits

The unions, which have been closely aligned with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have obtained contracts requiring underground construction work to be filled by four times more workers than anywhere else in the world, the documents show.

Construction companies, which have donated millions of dollars in campaign donations over the last few years, have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding on bids. 39; employment. According to the contractors, [TRADUCTION]

consulting firms that rented dozens of M.T.A. The employees, have persuaded the authority to spend an unusual sum for the design and management, indicate the statistics.

Public servants, mired in bureaucracy, did not act to reduce costs. M.T.A.A. It has not adopted best practices or worked to increase competition in contracting, and it almost never punishes salespeople for spending too much or taking too much time, according to the reports of the Inspectors General.

At the heart of the problem that construction costs are set in New York. Wages and working conditions of workers are determined by negotiations between unions and companies, none of which is incited to control costs.

"It's sad, really," said Lok Home, owner of the Robbins company, which manufactured much of the drilling equipment used for East Side Access. Because they controlled the costs, they could do twice as many expansion projects and even more money for maintenance.

Asked about the Times' findings, union leaders and construction officials insisted. They said the tunnel was a difficult and dangerous job that needed to be well funded.

The MTA, for its part, did not dispute the findings.

Joseph J. Lhota, who was president of the authority in 2012 and returned to work in June, he said he recently appointed working groups to study the costs and process of the process. purchase.

"We recognize that this has been a problem and we will never deny history," Lhota said. "This is a problem that needs to be solved – it must be attacked."

Supervisors discovered several hundred additional workers on East Side Access, an example of widespread overheating on the projects of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Todd Heisler / The New York Times

Why is New York Different?

around the world. At least 150 projects have been launched since 1990, according to a recent study by researcher David Schleicher of Yale University.

The approximate average cost of projects – in the United States and abroad – was less than $ 500 million. mile track, the study concluded.

"There was a glaring exception," said Schleicher. "New York."

This exception did not go unnoticed. Independent online journalist Alon Levy first noted Mr. T.A.'s high construction costs, and 28 City Council members urged officials to study the issue in October.

Mr. Lhota responded by defending the costs. He said in a letter, "There are unique challenges that contribute to the high construction costs in New York in general, and for Mr.T.A. projects in particular. "

Lhota listed 10 explanations, including aging utilities, expensive land, high density, strict regulations, and significant ridership demanding large stations."

To evaluate these arguments, The Times took the list to more than 50 entrepreneurs.worked in New York as well as in other cities.The Times also interviewed about 100 past and present MTA employees, reviewed the internal project files , consulted the industry price indexes and built a database to compare expenses relating to specific items.And The Times observed on-site construction in Paris, which is building a similar project to the metro of the second avenue at one-sixth the cost

The study found evidence of one of the problems cited by the MTA: countries nationalized health care, projects to the foreign I do not have to fund workers' health insurance. This could account for a tenth of the cost differences, the entrepreneurs said.

But the contractors declared the other questions cited by the M.T.A. were challenges that all transport systems are facing. Density is the norm in cities where subway projects occur. The regulations are similar everywhere. All projects use the same equipment at the same price. Land and other types of construction do not cost much more in New York. The insurance costs more but is only a fraction of the budget. The MTA stations have not been larger (nor deeper) than is typical.

"It sounds like chips," says Rob Muley, director of the engineering firm John Holland who worked in Hong Kong. and Singapore and visited the East Side Access Project after hearing Mr. Lhota's reasons.

In Paris, which has famous unions, the study found that lower costs were the result of efficient staffing, fierce competition from suppliers and use of consultants

In some ways, MTA projects have been easier than work elsewhere. East Side Access uses an existing tunnel for almost half of its route. The rock hard under the city is also easy to cross, and workers do not encounter old sites that need to be protected.

"They claim that the age of the city is to blame?" Ask Andy Mitchell, the former Crossrail leader, a 13-mile subway construction project under central London, a city built 2000 years ago. "Really?"

A tunnel boring machine used in the Second Avenue subway project in 2010. It takes 25 workers to operate machinery in New York, while the number is about a dozen in the US. ;other cities. Credit Richard Perry / The New York Times

A Dizzying Labyrinth of Jobs

The Reasons for High MTA Costs Begin with the Number of People Employed

Mike Roach noticed it as soon as he arrived at Worksite # 7 a few years ago. Mr. Roach, a California-based tunnel contractor, was not involved in the project but was invited to see it. He was stunned by the number of people running the machine through the ground to create the tunnel.

"I started counting because I was so surprised and I counted 25 or 26 people". "It's three times what I'm used to doing."

The staffing of tunnel boring machines appeared on numerous occasions in interviews with contractors. The so-called T.B.M.s are massive machines, weighing more than 1000 tons and extending up to 500 feet from the cutting wheel to the thrust system, but they work largely automatically. Other cities typically run the machine with less than 10 people.

However, it is not only the tunnel machines that are overstaffed. A dozen New York unions are working on tunnels, building stations and setting up systems. Each negotiates with the construction companies on the working conditions, without the involvement of M.T.A. And everyone has got rules that entrepreneurs say they demand more workers than necessary.

Unions and vendors refused to disclose labor contracts, but the Times got them. With interviews with contractors, the documents reveal a vertiginous labyrinth of jobs, many of which do not exist on projects elsewhere.

There are "claws" to look at the moved material and "hog house tenders" to supervise the break room. Each crane must have a "greaser", a relic of a time when they needed frequent lubrication. Reserve electricians and plumbers must be present at all times, as at least a "master mechanic". Generators and elevators must have their own operators, even if they are automatic. An additional person must be present for all concrete, steam, sheet metal and other work

In New York, "Underground construction employs about four times as many staff as in similar jobs in Asia, Australia, or Europe, "according to an internal report from Arup, a consulting firm that has worked on the Second Avenue metro and many similar projects around the world.

This ratio does not include people lost in the sea of ​​workers and to be paid even if they have no apparent liability, as this has occurred on East Side Access.

The costs of the East Side Access project are seven times higher than the average elsewhere, partly because New York supported a small group of Credit Todd Heisler / The New York Times

Negotiated labor agreements between unions and construction companies also ensure that workers are well paid. The agreement for Local 147, the union of the famous "sandhogs" that dig tunnels, includes a pay rate for most members of $ 111 an hour in salary and benefits. Double pay for overtime or Sunday work, which is common in transit construction. Weekend overtime is quadrupled, over $ 400 hour

Other trades are not paid much, but overtime is more frequent with M.T.A.

Union officials objected to the idea that their members are overpaid. The construction unions, after all, were born in response to exploitative bosses who underpaid and endangered the workers. More than a dozen people have died while building the New York subway, and many others have perished since. Even today, workers work in dirty and uncomfortable conditions to build wonders.

"Construction workers deserve every penny they earn, and more," said Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York Building Trades Council. "We live in New York, it's very expensive to live here, we're very proud of the work we do, and the work rules are there to make sure we stay alive."

But statistics suggest that work contracts multiply costs while doing little to improve safety. For example, in the Second Avenue subway project, there were 5.5 security incidents for 200,000 hours of work, according to federal data. The national average is 3.2. The Silver Line in Washington, which cost only $ 300 million per mile, had an even lower incident rate.

Nor is there any evidence that transactions accelerated construction. M.T.A.

Some union leaders said they were willing to negotiate labor rules to increase efficiency

"We can find a way," said Richard Fitzsimmons, business leader for Local 147, who said that he often sees construction companies insist on workers who are not needed. "I am the union, and sometimes I say to myself:" But what are they doing? " "

But, added Mr. Fitzsimmons," we will never negotiate with the security of our members. "

Several entrepreneurs said that unions are able to maintain agreements because that everyone knows that they are politically powerful. Unions working on M.T.A. The projects gave over $ 1 million combined to Mr. Cuomo during his administration, records show.

Peter Ajemian, a spokesman for the governor, referred investigations to the M.T.A. Thursday.

"Procurement is managed by the MTA," said Ajemian, "so that procurement issues should be addressed to the authority."

in collective agreements. Part of the Local 147 transaction entitles the union to $ 450,000 for each TBM used. This is to offset the job losses due to "technological progress", even though equipment has been standard for decades.

"I'm not at all anti-unionist, but it's amazing how much they dictate everything," said Jim Peregoy, a Missouri-based cost estimator who has worked on 240 projects in 27 states, including the Second Avenue metro. Mr. Peregoy said that work was a much larger part of his estimates in New York than elsewhere. "You must take this into account because it is huge."

The agreement for Local 147, the union of the famous "sandhogs" which dig tunnels, includes a pay rate for most members of $ 111 per hour in salary and benefits. Overtime on weekends pays more than $ 400 per hour Credit Todd Heisler / The New York Times

] Driving Up Expenses

Even though the MTA is paying for the construction of its capital with taxpayers' money, the government does not take seats at the table when working conditions are determined . Instead, the task of repressing unions is up to the construction companies – who often try to drive up the costs themselves.

As a general rule, construction firms meet with each union every three years. The resulting agreements apply to all companies, preventing entrepreneurs from reducing their offers by offering less generous salaries or work rules.

This is not a problem in the private sector where the possibility of unionization may compel unions to be more competitive, or in parts of the public sector that involve more potential bidders. But in the small world of underground construction, experts say that there is little cost control.

Tim Gilchrist, a Govs Transportation Advisor. Eliot L. Spitzer and David A. Paterson, note that all costs are transferred to M.T.A. Critics have pointed out that construction companies are incentivized to maximize costs – they earn a percentage of the project costs as a profit, so the more profitable the cost-effective the construction companies are, the greater their profit.

Lhota, the M.T.A. President, agreed that leaving negotiations to unions and sellers can be problematic. "You're right, in many ways there is this level of connection between the two," he said.

But the president said that he did not know what could be done about this.Hiring non-unionized workers is legal but politically unrealistic for the MTA The transport authority could cause the unions to accept specific project-specific work contracts, but this is not the case. Is not the case

The percentage of profit taken by sellers is also a factor in the high costs of the MTA.

] In other parts of the world, companies bidders on transit projects typically add 10% of their estimated costs to profit, overhead, and changes, contractors from all five continents said.The final profit is usually less than 5% of the total cost. of the project, which is sufficient comp given the size of the projects, according to the contractors.

Things are very different in New York. In a series of interviews, dozens of M.T.A. Contractors described how suppliers regularly increase their estimated costs when they bid for work.

First, according to the contractors, the sellers add between 15 and 25% as "M.T.A. Factor "because of the difficulty of working in the bureaucracy of the transport company.Then they add 10 percent as a contingency for possible changes.And then they add 10-12% more to all this for profit and Overhead.

"That adds up," said Mysore L. Nagaraja, former head of MTA Construction now works as a consultant, who called the standard supplements for most suppliers "Everyone is looking for their own interests."

Denise Richardson, Executive Director of the General Contractors Association, who represents MTA's construction companies He added that incremental costs are needed because suppliers are huge risks on transit projects and are often forced to pay for the mistakes made by the authority.In the end, she says, companies realize a b relatively modest benefit.

"It's the profit, not the cost coverage, that allows a company to hire more people, expand its administrative space and buy from new equipment, "said Ms. Richardson. "Companies that cover only their costs do not stay in business."

When companies prepare bids for M.T.A. projects, they start by estimating the cost of labor. Then they add between 15 and 25% as "Mr.T.A. Factor," to account for the difficulty of working with authority. Credit Todd Heisler / The New York Times

The lack of competition is also a problem for the MTA Times analysis of nearly 150 contracts worth more than $ 10 million that the authority has signed over the last five years found that the average project was receiving only 3.5 bids

"In other cities," said Gary Brierley, a consultant who has worked on hundreds of projects over the past 50 years, including the extension of Line # 7 and the Second Avenue Subway. "In New York, you have two or three, and they know it, so they will inflate their bids if they think they can get away with it."

L & # 39; one of the most important contracts of recent years, for the construction of the second avenue tunnel, had only two offers. M.T.A. The engineers estimated that the contract would cost $ 290 million, but the two offers far exceeded $ 300 million, and the authority did not have much influence. In the end, he granted the deal for about $ 350 million – 20 percent above his estimate.

And then there are the political links. Vendors who worked on East Side Access, Second Avenue and No. 7 line projects have allocated $ 5 million to New York politicians since projects began in 2000, according to an analysis by The Times

]. A dozen MTA workers were fined for accepting gifts from contractors during this period, according to the records. One was Anil Parikh, the director of the Second Avenue metro project. He got a $ 2,500 ticket for a gala, a round of golf, and a contractor's dinner in 2002. Years later, shortly after opening the line, he went to work for the parent company of the entrepreneur, AECOM. Mr. Parikh and AECOM declined to comment

A Times Analysis of the 25 M.T.A. agency presidents who have left the last two decades have found that at least 18 of them have become consultants or have gone to work for subcontractors, including many who have worked on Expansion projects

"Is rigged? Yes," said Charles G. Moerdler, who served on the MTA board of directors since 2010. "I do not think it's corrupt, but I think people like to do business with people they know, and so some companies do all the work, and they can charge what they want. "

A priest blessed a new phase of construction of the Second Avenue metro in 2012. The line also costs much more than the project of public transportation – $ 2.5 billion per thousand Credit Ángel Franco / The New York Times

] Increased "soft" costs

The high costs of the MTA are not limited to the companies that build the tunnels. Projects begin to burn a long time before construction begins

On average, "soft costs" – preliminary design and engineering, as well as ongoing management – account for approximately 20% of the cost of transit projects. America, according to a 2010 report from the Transportation Research Board.

Not in New York.

The last federal monitoring report for the Second Avenue metro forecasted moderate spending of $ 1.4 billion – one-third the budget, excluding funding expenditures. M.T.A. Officials said this number was high because it included some costs for designing later phases of the line. But experts said it was still shocking.

"The crazy thing is that it's so high, even with everything else," said Larry Gould, transit consultant and former M.T.A. metro planner "If we have three or four times more workers, how can the percentage of incidental costs be so high?"

The ancillary costs of access to the East Side are expected to exceed 2 billions of dollars. The project plan provided for the hiring of 500 consultants from a dozen different companies, according to a 2009 federal monitoring report.

The Two Second Avenue and East Metro Projects Side Access have hired the same engineering firm: WSP USA, formerly known as Parsons Brinckerhoff. The firm, which has designed some of New York's original metro, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians in recent years and hired so many transit agents that some of them they call it "the MTA retirement home. "

The company was the only vendor to bid on the engineering contract for the second avenue metro, records show." On East Side Access, she shares the contract with STV Inc. ., who recently hired former MTA president Thomas F. Prendergast.The contract was initially $ 140 million, but it rose to $ 481 million.

WSP USA declined to answer "WSP has undertaken complex and sustainable infrastructure projects across the United States, and the New York region has unique needs and challenges," the company said in a statement

The MTA is partly to blame.The officials added to the ancillary costs in struggling to coordinate between suppliers, taking a lot of time to approve the plans, insisting on extravagant and foreign exchange station designs notice of mid-way projects. In 2010, they hired a team of three consultants to work full-time on East Side Access's "operational readiness" – in preparing for the tunnel's opening – even though contractors knew que la construction ne se terminerait pas avant une autre décennie

Janno Lieber , qui a rejoint le MTA À titre de chef du développement en avril, il a reconnu que certaines parties de l'approche de gestion de projet de l'autorité étaient «brisées» et «autodestructrices». Le changement de plan à mi-parcours est un «énorme problème», tout comme la sur-personnalisation des conceptions. "Il nous suffit de faire un bien meilleur travail", a déclaré M. Lieber. "Nous comptons sur ces consultants pour exécuter nos projets, et nous n'en obtenons pas de bons résultats."

D'autres ont une perspective plus sceptique sur les coûts accessoires.

Jack Brockway, un cadre de Herrenknecht, un fabricant allemand de tunneliers, a déclaré qu'il avait reçu des instructions de consultants pour son travail sur le métro de la Second Avenue, à des détails qui n'avaient aucun sens.

«On se demande si c'est vraiment nécessaire, ou s'ils essaient juste de faire quelque chose pour justifier combien ils sont payés», a déclaré M. Brockway.

Les travailleurs d'une nouvelle station de métro à Paris en décembre. Malgré les syndicats forts de la France, Paris a des coûts de construction de métro inférieurs à ceux de New York en raison de la dotation en personnel plus efficace, de la concurrence féroce des fournisseurs et de l'utilisation limitée des consultants. New York Times

La vue depuis Paris

De l'autre côté de l'océan Atlantique, Paris travaille sur un projet qui met en relief l'inefficacité de New York.

Le projet, appelé extension Line 14, est similaire au métro Second Avenue. Les deux projets prolongent des lignes vieilles de plusieurs décennies dans l'espoir de réduire le surpeuplement du système. Les deux impliquaient de creuser à travers un sol modérément dur juste au nord du centre-ville pour faire quelques kilomètres de tunnel et quelques stations à environ 80 pieds sous terre. Les deux tunneliers utilisés par Herrenknecht. Tous deux étaient confrontés à une réglementation stricte, à une densité élevée et aux demandes des voisins, ce qui limitait la construction à 12 heures par jour.

Mais alors que le métro Second Avenue coûtait 2,5 milliards de dollars, l'extension de la ligne 14 coûterait 450 $.

Lors d'un après-midi récent sur un chantier de construction de la ligne 14, un fonctionnaire a exprimé son incrédulité à l'effet que New York dépensait tant.

"Nous pensions que le nôtre coûtait cher" , directeur général d'Île-de-France Mobilités, qui contrôle le transit dans la capitale française.

En descendant dans le trou creusé pour la future gare de Pont Cardinet, les coûts peuvent être si différents. Dispersés autour de la caverne se trouvaient quelques dizaines de travailleurs, exécutant des exercices, lissant sur le sol et vérifiant les systèmes électriques. La plupart du temps, ils travaillaient seuls

. Probst, 39 ans, vêtu d'un costume et d'une cravate bleue sous sa veste de sécurité orange, a poussé le bouton pour actionner l'ascenseur lui-même.

Les syndicats français sont puissants, mais M. Probst a déclaré qu'ils ne contrôlaient pas le personnel. Isabelle Brochard, de la RATP, société d'Etat qui exploite le métro de Paris et coordonne le projet Line 14, estime qu'il y avait 200 travailleurs au total, chacun gagnant 60 dollars de l'heure. Le projet de métro Second Avenue employait environ 700 travailleurs, dont beaucoup faisaient le double (bien que cela incluait l'assurance maladie).

Le tunnelier à mâchonner la saleté au nord de Pont Cardinet – une brocante, a noté Mme Brochard – était occupé par une douzaine de travailleurs qui rebondissaient entre la salle de contrôle, la roue de coupe et les côtés de la machine

À l'intérieur de la salle de contrôle d'un tunnelier à Paris, où l'équipage de la moitié de ceux de New York exploitait l'engin de 1 000 tonnes Crédit Pete Kiehart pour le New York Times

Le petit nombre de travailleurs n'a pas ralenti le projet de Paris. La ligne, qui conduira des trains sans conducteur toutes les 85 secondes, devrait ouvrir ses portes d'ici 2020, six ans après l'inauguration. Le métro de la deuxième avenue, en revanche, a pris une décennie à construire.

M.T.A. les fonctionnaires ont refusé de commenter le projet de Paris.

La RATP a traité tous les contrats, a dit M. Probst. But the government worked closely with vendors, trying to build the type of collaborative relationships that are rare in New York.

The management contractor — Systra, which also worked on the Second Avenue subway — got a relatively small contract, Mr. Probst said. Soft costs totaled 20 percent of the project budget.

Officials awarded dozens of contracts, and most garnered at least a half dozen bids, driving down costs.

“Our first cost estimate was 260 million euros,” said Patrick Ramond, underground construction director at Razel-Bec, which beat five competitors to win a contract for half the tunneling. “We had to drop that by 40 million to get the job.”

Because of that and some technical issues, Mr. Ramond said Razel-Bec was losing money on the job. Usually, he said, the firm makes a profit of about 5 percent.

“We do fine. I make a good living,” Mr. Ramond said with a laugh. “We’re not trying to rip anybody off.”

The Saint-Lazare station in Paris serves the new Line 14 extension, a major transit project that cost $450 million a mile. Below, a departing Line 14 train and a mosaic in the station.CreditPete Kiehart for The New York Times
CreditPete Kiehart for The New York Times
CreditPete Kiehart for The New York Times

Doris Burke and Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

A version of this article appears in print on on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Most Expensive Mile Of Subway Track on Earth. Order Reprints | Paper of today | Subscribe

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