Joe Lhota, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, took a trip down to Washington, D.C. Thursday to ask lawmakers for help in fully restoring New York's transit system. But Lhota found himself having to answer questions about his own political future. NY1's Erin Billups has the story.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota joined the ranks of city and state officials making the trek down to the nation's capital Thursday in the hopes of keeping New York's urgent needs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the spotlight.
"When you consider the fact that the New York metropolitan region completely shuts down without the MTA, and that the region makes up a full 11 percent of our country's GDP, this is clearly much more than a New York issue," Lhota said. "This is a national issue, it is a national need."
Lhota asked the federal government for $5 billion just to get the system back to pre-Sandy operating levels.
But even as Lhota tried to keep the focus of his Washington visit on New York City's transit needs, he faced numerous questions surrounding a potential mayoral bid.
"I've been reading the papers as well as you have and I'm quite surprised with what's there," Lhota said. "A time will come when I make a decision. Right now my number one focus is to get the MTA back up and running again."
He said billions more will also be needed to protect the system from future storms.
"What's really important is that we all come together and try to figure out when this happens again that we don't have this damage and we allow our economies to continue to operate immediately after the storm," Lhota said.
Lhota and New York's lawmakers have their work cut out for them. Recent reports claim the Obama Administration is poised to request tens of billions of dollars less than they asked for in emergency aid for Sandy-affected states.
But Lhota dismissed those reports as rumors.
"I am convinced, based on conversations that I've had with folks in the administration, that we're going to get a significant amount of money and it's going to cover most of our costs," Lhota said.
We should find out that number within the next few days when the White House is expected to release its supplemental emergency aid request for the region.