The New York City metropolitan region stands to lose billion of dollars through delays in infrastructure projects, the new executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday.
“An environmental impact statement shouldn’t take tens of years and tens of millions of dollars,” Patrick Foye said at the annual meeting of the New York Building Congress, a public-policy coalition of business, labor, professional and government organizations.
Foye, speaking at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manhattan, has implored his own agency, which he took over on Nov. 1, to move more quickly on its own projects. He has asked staff to reduce time and pre-construction planning costs by up to 25%.
“I know we can do better,” he said. “We have to make sure our own shop is in order. At the Port Authority, there has been too much of an emphasis on process.”
Foye, who most recently was secretary of economic development under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, praised Cuomo and President Obama for fast-tracking the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is not a Port Authority asset, while maintaining environmental oversight.
“Our country and our region are not quick enough,” he said. “Internationally, our competing infrastructure is newer, is better maintained, and is a source of national pride.”
Foye, who was also the chief executive for the Empire State Development Corp. under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and served on the board of the Long Island Power Authority in the mid-1990s, oversees a $7.2 billion annual budget, $4 billion of which is in capital expenditures.
The authority last week sold $400 million of consolidated bonds, 171st Series, with JPMorgan winning the competitive bid. Moody’s Investors Service rated the bonds Aa2, while Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings each assigned an AA-minus.
Their maturities ran from 2030 to 2042, at interest rates ranging from 4% to 5% per year. The true interest cost to the Port Authority was 3.86% , the lowest of the seven bids received, according to an agency spokesman.
“The market reception for the sale continues to reflect investor confidence in the Port Authority’s financial strength,” the spokesman said.
Moody’s has had a negative outlook for the Port Authority since last January, citing increased debt and commercial risks for development of the World Trade Center site and greater debt financing of the authority’s capital plan. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch both have stable outlooks.
Foye, in Monday’s speech, touted current Port Authority projects, including the reconstruction of the Goethals Bridge under a public-private partnership; and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge from 151 feet to 215 feet to accommodate larger container vessels.
Commuters in New Jersey and New York City’s Staten Island borough, meanwhile, received good news Monday when Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced a lowering of tolls on the Goethals, Bayonne, and Outerbridge Crossing bridges for motorists who use the E-ZPass payment system.