Commuters Rejoice: New Port Authority Bus Depot to Be in NYC

  • Deal struck between New Jersey and New York commissioners
  • Christie's top appointee won't block LaGuardia redevelopment

When a new Port Authority bus terminal is built, it will be in Manhattan, not New Jersey.

Under a deal announced Thursday, New York’s top appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to abandon his push to build a replacement for the 66-year-old Manhattan depot next to a train station in Secaucus, New Jersey. The move threatened to lengthen the commute for thousands of Garden State bus riders by requiring them to board trains for the final leg of trips into the city.

In exchange for dropping the proposal, New Jersey’s top appointee withdrew his opposition to a $4 billion reconstruction plan for LaGuardia Airport’s central terminal, which threatened to further delay that project.

“The decision to put the bus terminal in Manhattan, so we can assure one-seat rides, is an enormous victory for commuters,” New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said at Thursday’s board meeting.

Tensions between New York’s and New Jersey’s representatives have been rising as the agency tackles a backlog of projects after spending 14 years and $8 billion rebuilding the World Trade Center site. The agency’s $27.6 billion 10-year capital plan adopted in 2014 calls for spending $8 billion on the New York City area’s three major airports, $1.5 billion for extending the PATH commuter railroad from lower Manhattan to Newark Liberty International Airport and billions more to maintain assets such as the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel.

A new bus terminal has emerged as a main priority for commissioners in both states after top New Jersey Democrats and Ken Lipper, a Port Authority commissioner appointed by Cuomo, criticized the agency for ignoring the run-down depot near Times Square. The plan allocated less than $200 million for the terminal, which serves 230,000 commuters daily.

A new Manhattan bus station could cost as much as $10 billion. New York and New Jersey have also committed to funding half of a $20 billion project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Offloading Passengers

Fault lines between the New Jersey and New York commissioners arose after Scott Rechler, a real estate developer and Cuomo’s top appointee, asked the agency to explore putting a new bus terminal next to a train station in Secaucus, where commuters would transfer to trains into the city. He said a New Jersey terminal would cost less to build and reduce congestion in Manhattan.

New Jersey elected officials, the riding public and transit advocates hated the idea.

Port Authority chairman John Degnan, who was appointed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, told Politico Wednesday that he wouldn’t support the LaGuardia central terminal redevelopment “in the current configuration,” which would replace the 50-year central terminal and include a "Great Hall" as the airport’s primary entry. Degnan maintained that the project cost was $5.3 billion, not $4 billion, when including $1.3 billion the Port Authority has spent at the airport since 2004.

“It’s horsetrading,” Rechler said at a news conference after the Port Authority board meeting. “There was concern in New Jersey that the bus terminal wasn’t going to get the attention and that concern was relayed.”

The deal didn’t prevent friction between Degnan and Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye from breaking into the open at the meeting. Foye, a Cuomo appointee, said the $5.3 billion price-tag, which was included in a resolution approved by the commissioners and aggregated prior projects that served other areas of the airport, was misleading and “does a disservice to the reputation of this agency.”

Degnan fired back: “I want to totally disassociate myself from your introductory remarks,” he said. “Let’s be honest when we talk to our public. The cost of this project from 2004 to today is $5.3 billion.”

Degnan still has misgivings about the LaGuardia project. Building a $400 million central hall connected with Delta Air Lines terminals without a firm agreement from the carrier to upgrade its facilities doesn’t make sense, he said.

“As long as we are open and transparent about costs and goals and as long as we adhere to our core mission of transportation infrastructure, then compromise rather than stalemate is what will allow us to move forward,” Degnan said in a prepared statement.

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