In Congress, a testament to turnover at the M.T.A.

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Prendergast, left, in Queens. (MTA via Flickr)
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Yesterday, when Joe Lhota formally announced that he was leaving the M.T.A. after just a year as chairman and C.E.O. to pursue a possible run for mayor, he promised that he would remain the M.T.A.'s lobbyist in chief through the end of the month.

"I will continue to fight through the end of the year to get the supplemental resolution passed in Washington, as will everybody at the M.T.A," he promised, when asked what message his departure would send to legislators in D.C.

But today, it wasn't Lhota who went down to Washington to plead the M.T.A.'s case for post-hurricane relief from the legislators, as it had been earlier this month. It was Tom Prendergast, the M.T.A.'s head of transit in New York City.

Gene Russianoff, a transit advocate with the Straphangers Campaign, called it a "a good illustration of my point that heavy turnover in M.T.A. leadership—6 M.T.A. Chairs and C.E.O.s in 6 years—reduces developing personal connections and presence."

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Today, the Senate's banking committee held hearings about rebuilding infrastructure in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

While the Port Authority sent its executive director, Patrick Foye, the M.T.A.'s chief, Lhota, was nowhere to be found.

"Since Tom will be the one running the M.T.A. until a new chairman/CEO is confirmed by the state Senate, it makes sense for him to be the one here discussing the challenges facing the M.T.A.," said Adam Lisberg, an M.T.A. spokesman, in an email.

(Prendergast will handle C.E.O.-type operations, while M.T.A. board member and interim chairman Fernando Ferrer will handle the larger policy and governance duties.)

Hurricane Sandy has caused extensive damage systemwide, the repercussions of which will be felt for years to come.

And it's not at all clear at this point whether the federal government will come through with the money for repairs and storm-proofing at the levels requested by the authority and regional officials.

President Obama requested $60 billion in disaster relief from Congress, including $6.2 billion for the region's transportation infrastructure.

The Senate Republicans countered with an offer of about a third the size.

The M.T.A. recently approved $2.5 billion in new debt to help with repairs, much of which will be used for big-ticket projects like the restoration of subway service to the Rockaways.

"As those monies get drawn down and we reach the point where we’re reaching the limits of our own ability to generate funds that we can use for these types of repairs, we will be forced to put off critical repair needs that may result in other delays," said Prendergast today. "What we saw on the Montague Street tube we have reason to believe will happen on some of the other tubes, in terms of anticipated increased failures in those signal systems."