A busy year on the Port Authority's airports, trains and bridges

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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey facilities reported that volume soared last year on its various transportation operations.

The Port Authority announced Thursday that it handled 137.9 million passengers in 2018 at its four commercial airports — John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and New York Stewart International airport — for an increase of 3.8% over its previous high in 2017. The Authority’s volume data also reported 7% cargo growth for the Port of New York and New Jersey, a new annual mark for passenger traffic on the Goethals Bridge and the second highest year for passengers on PATH trains.

“We are pleased that our facilities, which were built to handle customer and cargo levels from a bygone era, are able to support the record activity we are seeing today,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said in a statement. “We are committed to rebuild and invest to assure the agency can meet future growth as well as provide facilities of the quality that the region deserves.”

The Port Authority adopted a $32 billion 10-year capital plan in early 2017 to fund large-scale enhancements at its airports, bus terminal and crossings while also expanding PATH service. Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said a high volume numbers at the agency’s transportation assets in 2018 validate its financial commitment for capital improvements.

“Our airports, tunnels, bridges, terminals, PATH and seaport are prime gateways and economic engines in the region, and we must aggressively move forward to ensure that these facilities continue to handle record growth well into the future,” said O’Toole in a statement.

Passenger counts were up 6.3% at Newark Liberty followed by a 2.5% jump at Kennedy and 2.3% spike at LaGuardia. The much-smaller New York Stewart reported a 44.2% traffic surge driven largely by the introduction of nonstop Norwegian Air flights to destinations in Europe.

Much of the of the Port Authority’s $3.7 billion 2019 capital budget targets was designated toward ongoing redevelopment projects at LaGuardia, Newark and Kennedy. An $8 billion LaGuardia overhaul that began three years ago as part of a public-private partnership is quickly developing with the first new gates of a rebuilt main terminal opened late last year and a planned new AirTrain in the design stages. The Port Authority is also planning a terminal replacement at Newark Liberty and a $13 billion Kennedy modernization with $12 billion covered by the private sector.

Ridership on the Port Authority’s PATH transit service numbered 81.73 million in 2018 and would have been a new record if not for 1.2 million New Jersey Transit ticket holders who were cross-honored during summer 2017 track shutdowns. The 10-year capital plan funded PATH’s signal replacement program completed late last year to meet a federal deadline for Positive Train Control emergency breaking equipment. A new $256 million PATH station in Harrison was also opened last October that is handicapped accessible with improved lighting, longer platforms and countdown clocks for train arrivals.

Record passenger traffic on the Goethals Bridge last year coincided with a new span that fully opened last May with three 12-foot-wide lanes to accommodate future growth. The bridge, which links Staten Island and New Jersey, had 16,577,588 eastbound customers for a 4.8% increase over the previous record of 15,813,461 vehicles that traveled over the crossing in 2017.

The Port Authority is one of the nation’s largest municipal bond issuers with around $21 billion of outstanding bonded debt. The bi-state agency’s debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-minus by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Rating.

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Infrastructure Transportation industry Port Authority of New York & New Jersey New York New Jersey