Port Authority pushes for rescue aid to preserve capital program
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants $3 billion of federal assistance so it can proceed with its long-range capital plan.
“Without direct federal financial assistance, the Port Authority will be forced to urgently reconsider its 10-year capital plan in ways that would involve undermining billions of dollars in construction spending,” agency Executive Director Rick Cotton said during Thursday’s board meeting.
The Port Authority has projected revenue losses of $3 billion over a two-year period through March 2022, resulting from financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Second-quarter revenues were nearly $800 million less than forecast in the agency's 2020 budget, it said Thursday.
Without $3 billion of direct financial assistance from Congress, Cotton said, key aspects of the Port Authority’s ongoing $37 billion, 10-year capital program, which extends through 2026, could be jeopardized, including a $13 billion redevelopment of JFK International Airport, planned AirTrain systems at LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, and replacing the Port Authority Bus terminal.
“The very real risk of the Port Authority’s capital plan is terror for our vision to build new 21st century infrastructure and is terrible for the Port Authority’s capacity to help drive a vigorous economic recovery that is so desperately needed," Cotton said. “We will continue to pursue discussions and to pursue our advocacy with Congress in the days ahead.”
Since the health crisis began in March, the Port Authority’s airport traffic and PATH commuter rail ridership have fallen more than 90%, he added. The agency received $450 million of Federal Aviation Administration grants for its airports under the CARES Act this past spring, but did not receive any aid for PATH.
The American Public Transportation Association has lobbied Congress to include at least $32 billion in the next relief package for large public transit systems. The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has yet to include transit funding in its proposed $1 trillion federal aid package. House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion stimulus plan in May that included $15.75 billion for transit.
S&P Global Ratings downgraded the Port Authority’s bond ratings one notch to A-plus from AA-minus last month, citing plummeting usage levels due to the pandemic. Port Authority debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings.
The Port Authority had $22.2 billion of outstanding consolidated bonds as of March 31, according to an April 14 disclosure to bondholders.