On Thursday the Port Authority board held an unprecedented meeting in terms of both the huge financial commitments it made and the rancorous disputes it generated. The projects provide important benefits to New Jerseyans. The ventures all involve transportation infrastructure, not the World Trade Center which has been the focus of the PA in past years.
The Board committed to:
- Allocate the necessary funds for construction of a new bus terminal on Manhattan’s west side near the current facility. (estimated price tag $10 to 15 billion)
- Fund a new Terminal B and Central Hall at LaGuardia Airport, and replace Newark airport’s outmoded Terminal A.
- Rehabilitate with a10-year investment program the George Washington Bridge – the world’s busiest bridge.
- Preliminary engineering work, to expedite and accelerate environmental review and permitting for the Hudson Tunnel Project (Gateway). The plan includes a proposed section of track that would give North Jersey commuters a direct train ride to New York City by connecting NJ Transit’s Main-Bergen and Pascack Valley train lines directly to the Northeast Corridor and train tunnels to New York Penn Station, bypassing Secaucus Junction.
The art of the deal. In the past months the NJ Board Chair John Degnan has been pro midtown bus terminal and anti LaGuardia Airport. The NY Vice Chair Scott Rechler was pro LaGuardia and anti bus terminal. Their disagreement played out at the meeting. However, Degnan changed his mind about LaGuardia after board members agreed to to fund and build a new Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. Thus a compromise was struck to spend some $4 billion on LaGuardia and to spend an unknown amount on a new bus terminal.
Will the deal last? The PA has to find a way to raise many billions of dollars for these projects while also working on the huge Gateway endeavor. In another sign of dissent on a board which normally works out disagreements in private, the PA Executive Director Pat Foye spoke out indignantly against the bus terminal resolution. He said, “The chairman yesterday threw out $15 billion as the high end of the range estimate for the terminal. Are we really going to crowd out $15 billion in existing spending?” and pass a resolution “regardless of the cost.” Chairman Degnan had no apologies as he said, “I am at the Port Authority to get things done. ”
The PA has already issued a design competition for the new bus terminal with submission due from the finalists in the summer of 2016. The Board committed to allocate the necessary funds for the project’s construction in the 2017-2026 Capital Plan. Completion of the project could take some ten years. In the meantime there is more to be done on refurbishing the decrepit existing terminal.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) issued a statement calling the Board actions a tremendous victory for New Jersey and praising Chairman Degnan and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg for their efforts.