Tag Archive: Gateway tunnel

Time for change: NY/NJ Port Authority’s reach has exceeded its grasp


The NY/NJ Port Authority Commissioners have a scheduled meeting today. Let’s remember the PA was established to serve bi-state transportation needs. Over the years it ventured into expensive real estate and give-aways to both governors (including a recent $900 million multi-year slush fund for them) which jeopardize its core transportation mission. Its reach has exceeded its grasp. The result has been dilapidated tunnels, bus terminals, ports, bridges, and airports. It now faces the urgent need to make major investments in the Gateway tunnel, Midtown Bus Terminal and other aging infrastructure.

As the Record explains after an interview with Board Chair John Degnan:

“More money could be freed up by selling or leasing some of the Port Authority’s land, buildings and air rights to private developers,” Degnan said. Much of that money could come from the World Trade Center, but such an arrangement would be complex because many of the bonds sold to pay for the construction are backed by revenue from the Port Authority’s other facilities, including bridge tolls and airport fees.

It is normal for corporations to consolidate their revenue streams in order to be more attractive to bond purchasers. However, the PA is not just any corporation. It has an overarching responsibility to users of its transportation services. Its real estate arm includes some fallow properties (including air rights) which generate no income and most importantly the World Trade Center which devours cash. Last year Estimated Gross Revenue from its Bridges, Tunnels, and Terminals was $1.4 billion (page 60) and its expenses were $439 million (Page 64), so the surplus became available for whatever use the PA wanted. It is not wise that tolls for bridges and tunnels which have increased in the past few years from $7 to a scheduled $15 this december be diverted to subsidize real estate ventures and demands from PA’s uber-bosses (the two governors.)

The needs, particularly for the Gateway Tunnel and the Midtown bus Terminal, are within the PA’s grasp. By divesting itself of real estate and returning to its core mission the funds are are there. Combined with state and federal monies, there is a path that can assure its infrastructure, some of which is over 100 years old, will be rebuilt or replaced to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs.  

Sen. Sweeney maneuvers from Pinelands to Gateway Tunnel

Senator Steve Sweeney is a mercurial man who is not adverse to changing his position on a matter nor to taking a non-progressive stance on an issue one day and a progressive stance on another issue the next day. He was against marriage equality until he was in favor of it. He had opposed limiting gun magazine round legislation, but later supported the bill. He urged pension/benefit overhaul in 2011 and now opposes overhaul until the governor makes “a good faith effort” to fully fund the pension system. He supports progressive ideals except when he does not. His changes are not dissimilar to those of some other legislators, but they are significant because he has the power of the senate president and is a likely gubernatorial candidate.

On environmental issues he has sometimes been supportive. However, yesterday he cast a deciding vote blow against protecting the Pinelands. Gov. Christie had earlier failed to reappoint a commissioner who opposed the construction of a 20-mile gas pipeline through this protected area. Instead Christie who wants the pipeline built nominated Robert Barr as a new commissioner. Against loud protests from environmentalists, and only after an initial vote failed, Sweeney swung his support in favor of Mr. Barr who then won confirmation.


Gateway: Can the Leopard Change its Spots?

    “I’ve said all along that I think we need a second tunnel under the Hudson River,” – Governor Chris Christie (02/07/11)

Christie further stated that he is “thrilled” with the new Gateway tunnel proposal, “pointing out that it addresses his concerns: the planned tunnel won’t end deep below Macy’s, New Jersey taxpayers won’t be on the hook for cost overruns and the federal government will take the lead.” If indeed he feels that way, it is time for the leopard to change its spots.  

There is much uncertainty about the Gateway project as no study has yet been conducted. Whether Amtrak, much maligned by Republican congressmen including NJ’s Scott Garrett, can raise sufficient funds is unclear. Among other financial contributors neither NY state nor NY City officials were at the press conference with Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Nor have we heard yet from  NYNJ Port Authority leaders or the federal government. Christie was not at the event.  

Vice President Joe Biden yesterday announced a comprehensive six-year plan to invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service. This type of thinking could not only benefit Gateway, but it represents the vision we expect from our leaders. Christie too frequently is stuck in the simplistic conservative mode of cut, cut, cut as opposed to displaying a creative, positive vision. Can the leopard change its spots?

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