Yesterday, in line with its spending plan, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted to invest billions of dollars on improvements to LaGuardia and Newark airports and a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. But the board also announced a big surprise — plans to fix up another transportation nightmare–the Port Authority bus terminal. Katie Ferguson has more.
FERGUSON : The “most important board meeting in Port Authority history” — that’s how executive director Patrick J. Foye described yesterday’s vote. More money was committed to capital projects in a single day than ever before, including a new Port Authority bus terminal in midtown Manhattan. But this morning at the current terminal, many passengers hadn’t yet heard the news.
OCHS : No, I didn’t see that.
SMITH :I didn’t hear about that.
FERGUSON : Becky Ochs, off to visit her parents in Ithaca, said that the decision to build a new bus terminal made sense to her.
OCHS :It’s definitely aging, it sometimes seems like it was built by Franz Kafka, like weird things happen here.
FERGUSON: But some of her fellow travelers weren’t as sure. John Lee was heading to New Paltz, and he said–
LEE: I guess it could use some improvement, but I mean, I would say it’s functional.
FERGUSON : And for Whittney Smith, on her way to Buffalo, the change seemed totally unnecessary.
SMITH :I think this one’s fine. That’s like building another Grand Central Station. Like why? Why would you?
FERGUSON : Why would you? Because according to experts, it’s falling apart.
FORMAN :It has to happen. The current bus terminal is just years past its useful life.
FERGUSON : That’s Adam Forman. He works at the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank that published a report on New York City’s failing infrastructure in 2014. And he says that even if some have gotten used to the norm–
FORMAN :People don’t usually know kind of what’s underneath the hood.
FERGUSON : Forman says there are problems with heating and cooling systems, inefficiencies that lead to buses idling around, and on top of that…
FORMAN :It’s too small, it’s poorly designed, it’s falling apart. The status quo cannot hold. It’s, the infrastructure itself is something we can’t count on for much longer.
FERGUSON : But the announcement from the Port Authority board yesterday was short on some important details, like a timeframe or budget.
FORMAN :The bus terminal was approved without kind of a sense of how much it would cost. There was kind of a, sort of a rush to approve the funding proposal.
FERGUSON : And Forman attributes that speed to the often fraught working relationship within the Port Authority itself.
FORMAN :You know, there’s a bit of a dispute between the New Jersey and the New York side about the kind of construction of the new bus terminal. I think this was sort of a compromise.
FERGUSON : And it’s a deal without a plan for funding right now. Forman notes that the Port Authority budget is tight, but says that the money isn’t always spent efficiently. The recently opened World Trade Center path station ended up costing 4 billion dollars–enough to build a subway line, not just one station. But…
FORMAN :In terms of just the project selection, LaGuardia airport, the bus terminal, the new tunnel underneath the Hudson River, these are absolutely critical projects, I don’t think anyone would question that they’re necessary.
FERGUSON: Well, at least not until they see the price tag. Katie Ferguson, Columbia Radio News.