Port Authority Approves $32 Billion Capital Plan

By Erin Delmore

“It’s a finite amount of money and we have to use that money very wisely,” said Port Authority Commissioner Kenneth Lipper.

The Port Authority’s $32 billion capital plan is moving forward after months of delay and more than a little controversy.

“This is the largest ever commitment of capital by the Port Authority to the region in its 96-year history,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye.

The board’s blueprint for the region’s transportation infrastructure sets funding for the next 10 years for improving the region’s rail, bridge and tunnel traffic. It even includes money for the long-stalled Gateway Tunnel Project, which aims to shuttle more rail commuters under the Hudson as the current two tracks hit capacity.

“Far and away the largest fully funded commitment, the Gateway,” Foye said.

The hangup: a long-discussed bus terminal to alleviate commuter crunch and crumbling infrastructure in the half-century-old bus terminal on the West Side of Manhattan. The capital plan approved today allocates $3.5 billion toward that cause, one New Jersey legislators have been fighting for for years. The plan solidifies the bus terminal’s location in New York City — a win for Jersey lawmakers who dreaded a hub on the other side of the river, forcing a two-seat ride for their constituents. But the massive project could cost twice as much, and now it’s only partially funded.

“It’s an embarrassment that the Port Authority runs such a dilapidated, backwards facility,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski.

Another sticking point: new public transportation options to LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty — to the tune of $3 billion. What some say they’d rather see: increased capacity across the PATH system and the bus hub.

“Our concern is that PATH is already at 95 percent capacity and demands on the system are growing. Far out stripping the minor gains that will be realized when PATH is able to run trains closer together, after the installation of the ATC system,” said Sen. Bob Gordon.

“This plan has rail extensions that probably will result in economic development, probably will result in riders, but don’t serve the immediate needs. In an era of limited budgets and constraints that we all have to face, we cannot just continue to create a wish list because the governor of New York or the governor of New Jersey says, ‘I demand this be done,'” said Wisniewski.

Also approved today: $70 million toward planning and permitting to launch the new Port Authority Bus Terminal project.

While the $3.5 billion earmarked for the bus terminal is less than New Jersey’s Senate Democrats wanted, they say it’s a start. Once the $70 million study is completed, they’ll know how much more money it’ll take to fully fund the new bus terminal project, something they’ll be taking up with the next governor.