Port Authority Plots 10-Year Capital Course, Drops ‘Director’

By David Cruz

The Port Authority PATH system has a good reputation for weekday performance. Today, the system was picking up the slack from NJ Transit trains, which were on and off all day. The PATH is the workhorse of the PA’s train operations and the agency announced this week that they will expand the system’s service to Newark Airport.

“They should’ve done that a long time ago because I mean they run the airport anyway, right,” said Newarker Raymond Murphy. “It’s like bringing their own thing home. They should’ve done it a long time ago.”

But it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. The PATH extension is part of a $27.6 billion, 10-year capital improvement plan, which the agency says will create 126,000 jobs and almost $30 billion in economic activity over the next decade.

In addition to $1.5 billion for the PATH extension, the plan calls for $4.5 billion to finish off the World Trade Center site; $1.8 billion for Lincoln Tunnel access improvements, including the Pulaski Skyway, Wittpenn Bridge and 1 & 9/Tonnelle Circle; plus $1.4 billion to finish the Lincoln Tunnel Helix project and $1.3 billion for the Bayonne Bridge.

The Port Authority made no one available to talk to us about the plan. No surprise for an agency that has had transparency issues for years, says the state senator who has become a major critic of the agency.

“I heard from the press so many times that Freedom of Information Act requests go unanswered or stalled literally for years, and this is a place that is spending hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which is supported by the tolls that the people I represent are paying for the privilege of going over the bridge or through the tunnels,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

The agency also announced it had eliminated the position of director of interstate capital projects, the somewhat nebulous post created for David Wildstein, who is at the center of the PA’s burgeoning GWB scandal. A good step, say critics, but could it mean a loss of influence for New Jersey at the bi-state agency?

“I’m not going to pass judgment on New Jersey’s clout or influence or what that position represented,” said Weinberg. “This is supposed to be a regional planning agency. It’s not supposed to be two football teams, vying for the goalposts.”

Gov. Chris Christie’s new “eyes and ears” at the PA — Deputy Executive Director Deborah Gramiccioni — signed off on the plan, although having been there for less than two months, it’s unclear how much input she actually had on its eventual content.

The Port Authority board will vote on the plan at its Feb. 19 meeting. You have until Feb. 18 to let them know how you feel about it.