By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Democrats in the Senate want the Port Authority to suspend engineering work on extending the PATH line to Newark Airport, pending the outcomes of two investigations.
United Airlines and the U.S. Attorney’s office are looking into former Port Authority chairman David Samson’s dealings with United’s CEO and the two other airline executives who abruptly resigned earlier this month.
United would benefit from a PATH extension to the airport.
Samson did benefit when United reinstated a flight to a small airport in South Carolina near his vacation home.
Senate Democrats want the $1.5 billion PATH extension project temporarily halted.
“One has to question how an extension from Wall Street to Newark Airport — or as some people said, an extension from Wall Street to United Airlines — became number one on a list of priorities,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
Weiberg says the Port Authority bus terminal and the proposed Gateway rail tunnel project should be taking precedence over a PATH extension.
The bus terminal handles 200,000 people a day, the PATH line would carry 7,000, she says.
Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz he agrees.
“That project makes zero sense. What we look at David is, there are needs, then there are wants. And the needs have to play out above the wants. We have the bus terminal, the tunnel. There are many absolute, positive needs that have to be met before you go into ‘Boy, I would love to have this,” said Sweeney.
Currently, New Jersey Transit stops at the airport where it meets up with the airport monorail system. But in New York you have to board New Jersey Transit at Penn Station on 33rd street. A PATH link would create a one-seat ride from Lower Manhattan.
“Well, the Port Authority, the PATH line, is different,” said Newark councilman John Sharpe James.
James says a PATH station in this blighted industrial section of his South Ward would transform the area.
“You see warehouses, factories, methadone clinics, halfway houses, and so this area has been a forgotten piece of the South Ward,” said James.
That doesn’t sway these Bergen County senators.
“Not saying cancel the project. Put it on hold until we hear all the findings from both the federal government and United Airlines’ private internal investigation,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo.
“This has already been worked on for so long, and I think it’s unfair for others to try amend derail it for their own projects,” said James.
Port Authority chairman John Degnan also defends the PATH extension project. He told us by phone today the project pre-dates David Samson, has the approval of the Regional Plan Association, and hasn’t cost much money yet. And besides, he says, it will be reviewed the next time the Port Authority reconsiders its 10-year capital plan.