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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) unveiled a proposed fiscal-year 2015 budget and four-year financial plan that includes $5.4 billion in funding capacity for the agency's capital program.The plan assumes an average $260 million annual increase in labor costs as a result of recent contract settlements, but the plan proposes to cover those costs without increasing the previously announced 2015 and 2017 fare and toll increase proposals, which in February were reduced by nearly half to the rate of inflation, MTA officials said in a press release.The plan reallocates resources to pay for the increased labor costs as well as for investments in new service, improved service quality, and enhanced safety for customers and employees, they said.The budget would benefit from $635 million in favorable underlying budget trends, including lower re-estimates of fuel and electricity costs, debt service and pensions, and higher-than-anticipated savings from Access-A-Ride operations, as well as higher-than-anticipated fare and toll revenue.MTA officials plan to invest $20 million per year in new subway, bus and commuter-rail service, as well as an additional $125 million over the four-year plan period for new operational and maintenance needs. The budget also allocates major investments in customer, employee and public safety, which total $363 million over the four-year plan period, MTA officials said.The 2015 budget includes $84 million in safety initiatives, while safety investments will total $363 million over the entire 2015-18 financial plan."We must continue to promote a culture of safety with customers and employees through training, improved work practices, and investments in technology and equipment," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast in a prepared statement.MTA's board will vote on next year’s final financial plan in December.Investments would focus on customer and employee safety and training ($46 million per year), increased track and right-of-way inspections and repairs ($21 million per year), upgrades and repairs to signals and signal systems ($8 million per year), and enhanced safety systems and communications with customers and employees ($3 million per year). An additional $6 million per year has been allocated as both MTA Long Island Rail Road and MTA Metro-North Railroad continue to implement positive train control.MTA New York City Transit also will focus on safety as its top priority. The Track Division expects to bolster inspections and maintenance of critical track corridors and dedicate additional teams for rapid defect verification and rail replacement. Investments will support additional technology for automated inspections as work continues on full installation of continuous-welded rail.The Signals Division will receive additional resources and staffing analysis identified a need for additional signal maintainers to complete critical inspections and maintenance in required cycles. Resources also will be dedicated to ensure critical fire safety and communications equipment are inspected and maintained, including the new Help Point intercoms that are currently being installed, MTA officials said.
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