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Meeting Minutes Aug 20, 2009

• James F. Blair
• David Buchwald
• Gerard Kopera

The following members were absent:

• Richard Cataggio
• Francis T. Corcoran
• Rhonda Herman*

* Participated via Phone

In addition, the following persons were present:

• William A. Henderson -PCAC Executive Director
• Jan Wells  -PCAC Associate Director
• Ellyn Shannon  -PCAC Transportation Planner
• John Kennard  -Metro North Railroad
• Jim Cameron  -CT Rail Council
• Randy Glucksman  -Concerned citizen
• Barry Adler  -Concerned citizen


Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the August 20, 2009 meeting and the minutes of the July 29, 2009 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Board Report

The Board Report is attached to these minutes.  Jim Blair added that many Board members consider the pay increase granted to Transit workers to be high in the present economic environment.  He also noted that workers’ contributions to health care escalations were reduced and that NYC Transit had abandoned its attempt to increase the use of one person train operation in the subway system.  He said that there is a need for permanent leadership and that there have been lots of spillover effects from the current unsettled situation within the agency.  He noted that because the MTA leadership is strictly interim, it is not in a position to make major financial commitments, and everything seems to be on hold.

Mr. Blair reviewed the highlights of the 2010-2014 Capital Program.  Mr. Blair said that James Sedore called him to share with Mr. Blair his perspective on MNR committee issues.  Mr. Sedore’s comments are attached to these minutes.

Mr. Sedore indicated that he is willing to look for another person to represent Dutchess County on the MNRCC.  He noted that he hopes that future candidates will have paid their parking ticket violations, as this is what had derailed one prospective member.  Mr. Sedore feels strongly that parking must be expanded in Wassaic because 300 residential units are being built nearby.  John Kennard noted that MNR owns the parking lot at this station and surrounding property.  Mr. Sedore also relayed information that officials are looking at off-site parking options in Poughkeepsie instead of adding another parking structure at the station.  The Culinary Institute of America is considering building a restaurant on the currently unused second floor of the station.

Mr. Blair also reported that Mr. Sedore had mentioned rezoning the happening around the Beacon train station as a way to make the area more attractive to tourists through tying together DIA Beacon and other attractions.  Mr. Sedore also said that MNR is looking into expanding service beyond Dutchess County into Columbia County.  There is talk of trading a location for a train yard for service into the County.  Mr. Blair said Mr. Sedore is very public minded and is always looking for synergies between benefits for communities.

Introduction of John Kennard, MNR Director – Long Range Capital Planning

Mr. Kennard said the first step to building the Capital Program is developing a 20 Year Needs Assessment.  He said a list is drawn up containing all of the capital needs and then this list is balanced with the financial realities at hand.  He said they received about thirty comments on the Capital Program following its release on the web.

Mr. Kennard said the big issue currently is how to fund the Capital Program, as there is a $10 billion gap between proposed expenditures and funding.  He said that funding will determine whether it is a two or five year program.

Mr. Kennard acknowledged that the Capital Program work is large part the key to MNR’s success.  He said 89 percent of the money that they plan to spend is to bring the system to a state of good repair and to implement normal replacement cycles.  He said there is some hidden infrastructure at Grand Central Terminal that needs to be brought up to a state of good repair.  He noted they are finally catching up on repair of bridges and the Port Jervis line after many years where maintenance was performed to meet only a freight facility standard.

Mr. Kennard said $1.8 Billion has been designated for MNR in the Capital Program and that the document includes $30 million for planning study for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Mr. Kennard noted that the M-7 cars have performed very well and have contributed to MNR’s success.  The M-8 order is in process with 300 cars on order, and there is an option order for 42 additional cars.  He thinks Connecticut is likely to buy more cars for their Shore Line East service, as a maximum of 80 cars can be purchased under the terms of the option.

Mr. Kennard said they have spent lots of money on the trainshed at Grand Central terminal and that they had stepped up the expenditure level from $20 million to $35 million.

In response to Mr. Blair’s question about how the condition of the MNR trainshed compares to that of the New York City Transit subway system, Mr. Kennard said that Metro-North has a rating system with 1 being the best and 5 the worst conditions.  He said they have addressed the places that have earned a 4 or 5 rating.  He said overall the trainshed is in good shape, and they are trying to stay ahead of the curve but are not quite there yet.

Mr. Kennard said that they are upgrading the Visual Information System with replacement of wiring and fiber optics.  This improvement will allow gate curtains and arrival and departure boards to be upgraded, as it will make these displays IP addressable.  He said the next version of terminal information technology will be like the pilot program that is currently installed at Track 30.

Mr. Kennard said that the MNR capital investment strategy involves looking at different approaches for different lines.  He said on the Hudson line stations they will knock down a station and rebuild it.  On New Haven line, they will focus on replacing the key elements of the station.  He said that the Rye and Port Chester stations were included in the current Capital Program and there is some other New Haven line station work scheduled in the next Capital Program.

In response to Gerard Kopera’s question as to why the overpasses at the Scarborough station are so high, Mr. Kennard said the new standard is 22 to 23 foot elevation as required by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Mr. Kennard said MNR is in discussion with Fordham University about expanding the Fordham station out to the retaining wall that they are constructing.  He said the project is in design now and construction will begin in 2011.

Mr. Kennard said that the goal for customer information is to equip all stations except for Appalachian Trail and Manitou with real time communication systems.

Mr. Kennard said that the State of Connecticut is responsible for the cost of improvements in their State.  Connecticut officials have been given MNR’s service strategy and shown the plans for the system.  The State of Connecticut must commit to funding capital improvements before work there can begin. He said that the work required in Connecticut amounts to about $70 million.

In response to Mr. Buchwald’s question about changes in the Capital Program to meet new opportunities, Mr. Kennard said there is an overall dollar constraint and that no element in the Capital Program can increase more than 10 percent without CPRB approval.

Mr. Kennard said that the requirement that Metro-North install Positive Train Control grew out of the Chatsworth, California accident.  He said that MTA Deputy Executive Director Chris Boylan is working on securing additional funding for these improvements through the Federal Government.

In response to Randy Glucksman’s question as to how will MNR handle the ridership on the Pascack Valley line when the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project is completed; Mr. Kennard said that they will likely use bi-level cars to address the increased ridership.

Mr. Kennard said the biggest challenge is funding the network expansion projects, especially where planning studies end in the middle of the Capital Program and there is no funding to proceed with the preferred alternative.

Jim Blair noted that according to MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson, the MTA has received an opinion from Moody’s Investors Service confirming the A2 rating on its bonds.  He said that this is good news because there had been some concern about bond rating firms’ opinion of the MTA’s financial stability.

New Business

There was no new business discussed.

Old Business

There was no old business discussed.


The meeting was adjourned at 6:20 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Karyl Berger
Research Associate