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Port Authority approves $32 bln to improve bus terminal, airports

Port Authority approves $32 bln to improve bus terminal, airports

WASHINGTON: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday approved a preliminary 10-year, $32 billion plan to fund a new Port Authority Bus Terminal and renovate New York’s airports, among other projects. The proposed capital-works plan now goes through a public comment period before the board votes in February. The governors of New York and New Jersey can veto it. The plan was held up in December, when it first came before the board, amid battles over replacing the aging bus terminal in Manhattan. New York and New Jersey officials have been sparring over what percentage each side should pay for a terminal that is in New York but primarily serves New Jersey passengers. The terminal sees some 115,000 commuters daily and the number is expected to grow. The structure in the draft plan approved Thursday has New York paying one third of $3.5 billion toward the project, with New Jersey the remainder. It is still short of the $10 billion the project is estimated to cost over a decade. Port Authority officials are expecting the federal government to step up with funding.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat, said the bus terminal is overcrowded and depressing, and she isn’t happy with how much the capital plan puts toward it. She also criticized the process, saying it appeared to be “Monopoly” style trades between the states to get their priorities funded rather than based on urgency of various projects. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, scored some wins in the proposal, which funds the airport renovation plans he has promoted over the past year. The plan allocates $2.9 billion for redeveloping LaGuardia Airport which is already under way, and $2.5 billion for improvements in and around John F. Kennedy International Airport, a plan Mr. Cuomo announced Wednesday. The proposed JFK renovations total an estimated $10 billion, with Mr. Cuomo hoping to raise private capital.

Airport advocacy groups cheered the funding, with the Global Gateway Alliance saying improvements are much needed at the region’s airport. The capital plan proposal also allocates the largest sum to date, $2.7 billion, toward debt service on a long-running project called Gateway that is aiming to improve a number of bridges and tunnels around New York and New Jersey. It wasn’t clear how much had been changed since last month’s postponement of the proposal. Over that period, Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, a New Jersey appointee, and Mr. Cuomo have clashed. On Thursday, Mr. Degnan said “the capital plan is not a function of any disagreements I might have with the governor.” After the board meeting, Port Authority director Pat Foye demurred when asked if he is interested in replacing departing Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Thomas Prendergast with Mr. Foye, saying he has a job already.