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New York’s Subway Station Renovation To Be Scaled Down

January 30, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Subway station renovation has become ″a Laurel and Hardy routine″ with contractors tripping over each other while straphangers try to stay out of the way, so the Transit Authority is slowing it down, its chief says.

Authority president David Gunn said the agency ″was totally unprepared to spend $6.5 billion″ when its capital program was created in 1981 after 20 years of a ″starvation budget.″

″A lot of people underestimated the complexity of spending″ that much money, said Gunn, who joined the authority staff in 1984.

The program includes $262 million for renovation of the system’s subway stations - everything from tighter security and more understandable signs at all 463 stations to major modernization at 56 of the stations. A special federal grant paid for security work; the rest of the money came out of the $6.5 billion capital program budget.

Now, the list of 56 stations slated for major repairs has been cut to 23, said Michael Ascher, the authority’s chief engineer.

And the program of more minor repairs at all stations has been reorganized and cut back.

″There was no point in expanding a program that was going nowhere,″ Gunn said.

Authority officials admit that plans were over-ambitious, construction schedules were unrealistic and planning sometimes went awry.

For example, in deciding where to place security mirrors, the authority relied entirely on information from transit police. Engineers did not inspect the locations, and they discovered that some ceilings were too high for the mirrors only when the mirrors were about to be installed.

The effort to put more and better maps in each station has been delayed because planners were slow to decide what kind of plexiglass they should use to cover the maps, said project manager Barry Bischof.

But not all the problems were the authority’s fault.

At one station in Brooklyn, the contractor defaulted and the bonding company that had insured the work went bankrupt. The entire project had to be rebid.

At a Manhattan station, serious leaks were discovered during tile work that necessitated major, unanticipated construction work.

Despite everything, the modernization at some stations is quite close to completion, though years behind schedule. Some of them have benefited from an ″Adopt-A-Station″ program that encourages private contributors to do their part for the fix-up.

One station near the Museum of Modern Art and other museums will even have a display of pictures of items at the museums.

″There is hope,″ Ascher said.

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