Port Authority zeroes in on Manhattan bus terminal plans

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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is inching closer toward a replacement for its nearly 70-year old bus terminal by zeroing in on three possible options.

The bi-state agency released a planning-level scoping document Thursday to initiate an environmental review process that lays out three scenarios for a new bus terminal. The move came more than two years after the Port Authority's board of commissioners authorized the first phase of a comprehensive planning process to find a solution for replacing the 1950-built terminal.

One option would involve expanding the current terminal located on the corner of 625 Eighth Avenue with buses servicing it during the construction period while another would utilize the lower level of the nearby Jacob Javits Convention Center. A third hybrid option would consolidate all intercity buses within a new terminal under the Javits Center to free up more use in the current PABT for commuter service.

“Today’s kickoff of the formal public outreach process for the new bus terminal is a critical milestone for what will be one of the largest and most important transit infrastructure projects in the country,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said in a statement. “We are strongly committed to replacing this legacy, over-capacity facility, and look forward to a spirited dialogue with all stakeholders on how the project will proceed.”

The May 23 planning-level scoping document release launched a 120-day public outreach process to solicit formal comment from elected officials in New York, New Jersey, New York City and residents. Four public hearings are slated for July and September, with two to be held in each state.

Tom Wright, president & CEO of the Regional Planning Association, said Friday that the proposal moving intercity buses into the basement of the Javits Center has economic advantages. RPA first proposed this option in August 2017, when it released its Crossing the Hudson report.

“We found that an intercity bus facility under Javits would reduce usage of the PABT, leaving space for rehabilitation as well as swing space to better maintain operations during reconstruction of the existing terminal,” said Wright in a statement. “In the long run, the dual bus terminals would provide redundancy and could allow the region to move toward a broader regional transportation vision.”

The existing Port Authority Bus Terminal, which was expanded in 1981, serves an estimated 260,000 passenger trips on weekdays, which makes up 23% of trans-Hudson trips entering or exiting Manhattan’s central business district from New Jersey. Demand is expected to increase by 30% by 2040.

The Port Authority has estimated that a new terminal would cost between $7.5 billion to $10 billion. The agency allocated $3.5 billion for the project in its 2017 to 2026 10-year capital plan approved two years ago. The scoping document said funding would also be sought from the Federal Transit Administration.

New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said Thursday that she and other elected officials prefer the build-in-place option that would add two new floors to the existing terminal. She stressed that delays with adding new rail capacity in the Gateway tunnel makes expanding the bus terminal that much more crucial for New Jersey commuters.

“New Jersey legislators, our representatives in Washington and local officials have been united on a bipartisan basis in our support for this project,” said Sen. Weinberg, who has co-chaired the Port Authority Bus Terminal Bi-State Elected Officials Working Group with U.S. Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “Today’s announcement is an important step in realizing our joint vision.”

The Port Authority is one of the nation’s largest municipal bond issuers with $22.1 billion of outstanding bonded debt at the end of 2018, according to its year-end financial statement. The transportation agency has debt ratings of Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-minus by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

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