NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo went underground Wednesday for a top-to-bottom view of the dilapidated Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway power system.
Cuomo is ordering that it must be modernized in 12 months – or else. CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer went along with the governor as he took a close look at the problems causing a whopping 32,000 delays in just the last year.
Stunned subway rider son the downtown D Train were probably shocked to see Cuomo below them on the tracks at 59th Street-Columbus Circle. When they waved, he waved back.
But this was not a social call.
“When you see all these interlockings, any deviation triggers the relays to go to red – which means stop,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo was a man on a mission Wednesday. Knowing that power outages cause tens of thousands of frustrating subway delays every year, he go the Public Service Commission to order Con Ed to modernize its system ASAP.
He gave Con Ed six months for priority upgrades, and one year to finish the job.
Cuomo ordered Con Edison to:
• Place sensors in manholes to identify malfunctions;
• Install new smart meters and a new communications system;
• Replace aluminum conductors with more reliable copper cables.
Then, in “I’ve got to see it for myself” mode, Cuomo took Con Ed President John McAvoy and Metropolitan Transportation Authority consultant Charles Hall on a top-to-bottom tour – starting at the manhole where the power enters the system and ending in the dispatch tower.
In between, there were multiple stops to point out problems that have not been updated in as long as 80 years.
“Marcia, just look at the number of relays in that box. You see all those switches?” Cuomo told Kramer as the examined some equipment. “One of those switches goes bad, it stops everything.”
McAvoy took pains to point out the upgrades the utility has already started on, such as new smart meters.
“It will tell us in near-real time whether or not the power is flowing,” McAvoy said.
For commuters, the tour was also an unusual opportunity to see the guts of the system – and maybe even understand why it breaks down.
“This room, what you’re seeing here, is a 1980s install using 1950s technology,” Hall said.
The signal relay room is just as old.
“All of this has to be changed out for modern equipment; modern technology, because any one of these, I mean, there are thousands of points where one fails, everything stops – and then you have to trace it back to figure out, it was this relay that went bad,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the Con Ed upgrade will cost tens of millions of dollars, which is in addition to the $800 million in other fixes ordered by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota. The state is still trying to get Mayor Bill de Blasio to pay for half of the fixes ordered by Lhota.
Officials say if Con Ed fails to make the fixes, it will face still penalties.