Port Authority to vote Thursday on funds for new NYC bus terminal
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board is expected to vote Thursday to approve its construction plans for the next 10 years – and for a down-payment on replacing the outdated and overcrowded Port Authority Bus Terminal.
New Jersey lawmakers are worried that the 10-year plan doesn’t foresee the completion of a new Manhattan bus terminal and only includes $3.5 billion for the project, which is expected to cost $7 billion to $10 billion, depending on its design and location.
Board chairman John Degnan told the Assembly transportation committee Wednesday the project would be seen through to completion, which is projected to come in around 2030.
“I believe that if we spend $3.5 billion over the next 10 years, there’s no way responsibly any public official could stop the completion of that project,” Degnan said.
Lawmakers were pushing Degnan and the other New Jersey commissioners to withhold support for the $32 billion capital plan unless the Port Authority commits to spending $70 million on engineering and environmental studies and design plans for the bus terminal.
That vote will also be held Thursday, Degnan said.
“The capital plan is not going to pass unless that resolution is also agreed to,” Degnan said.
“It’s the first step in my judgment on a major commitment of funding to the Port Authority Bus Terminal rebuild – and an indispensable one. It couldn’t move forward without this,” he said.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said there are wants, such as fixing up airports as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks, and absolute needs, such as replacing the bus terminal, which is already overcrowded and forecast to see a 40 percent growth in demand.
“We’re here today to continue to call on New York to stop messing around and stop jerking us around,” Sweeney said.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, says the bus-terminal funding is minuscule and that the capital program puts too much money toward rail lines to the LaGuardia and Newark airports.
“Those are taking much needed dollars away from what I would say is Mission No. 1, the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” Wisniewski said.
“The billion-dollar train lines are expected to run a deficit and at below capacity. The reality is is that they seem to exist only to take a few Wall Street executives to the airport quicker,” Wisniewski said.
Degnan said the political reality is that Cuomo would veto the capital plan if it didn’t include funds for planning an overhaul of John F. Kennedy International Airport and the AirTrain to LaGuardia.
“Frankly I’d like to put more money in the capital plan applicable to the bus terminal. I’d like to put in the whole $7.5 (billion) to $10 billion total project cost estimate. I wouldn’t garner the relevant support of my colleagues in New York for that amount of money,” Degnan said.
Degnan said votes require at least three yes votes from each state to pass and that he’d get only one from New York.
Degnan said the $3.5 billion for the bus terminal “is more than a miniscule amount of money” and equates to more than 10 percent of the plan. He also said the plan is “not locked in stone” and could evolve over the coming years.
New Jersey and New York are feuding over the replacement for the bus terminal, with New York City officials reluctant to move it to the city’s West Side, pushing for additional environmental reviews that could delay the start of work by two to three years on top of the 18 to 24 months it would take anyway.
“I think that’s kind of disgraceful,” said Assemblywoman Bettylou DeCroce, R-Morris. “It seems like we’re being held for ransom over here by the city of New York and the state of New York, and I’m appalled by that.”
Degnan said he was “extremely disappointed” by the push for additional reviews by some New York officials and that it runs opposite to President Donald Trump’s push for simplifying permit processes for major infrastructure projects.