A Big Day for Improving Trans-Hudson Commutes

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Thursday’s meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners resulted in some big news for people whose commutes take them from one side of the Hudson River to the other.

Port Authority Bus Terminal

It would seem obvious that a new Port Authority Bus Terminal would A) be located in Manhattan and not, say, in Secaucus and B) be included in the Authority’s capital program. But until yesterday, that wasn’t actually the case. The Board voted to approve a resolution that not only takes New Jersey off the table as a possible location for the new terminal, a location Vice Chairman Scott Rechler had wanted to explore, and formally makes the terminal an official component of the 10-year capital program. The resolution had support from a bi-partisan cadre of New Jersey legislators including Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Loretta Weinberg, Senator Robert Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean.

The legislators expressed concern that having the terminal on the west side of the Hudson would result in longer commutes — the last thing New Jersey needs. One in seven Garden State commuters have “mega commutes” of one hour or more — the second highest rate in the nation.

Not much else besides the new terminal’s home state has been decided. Currently, those details are being left to an “International Design Competition.” At a projected cost of $7.5 to $10 billion, there is no room for error. A new Port Authority Bus Terminal must be designed to meet the demands of ridership beyond the 2040 date that commissioners are advocating. This must be a 50-, 75- or even 100-year project. Otherwise, it’ll be like taking a page right of the terminal’s own history: the original bus terminal was built in 1950, but reached capacity just 16 years later.

This project will outlast administrations in both New Jersey and New York as well as the tenures of Port Authority board commissioners, but it must remain a capital program priority. The Port Authority has a number of critical assets all competing for scarce funding, but future commissioners and elected officials must prioritize this over other investments, such as improvements to La Guardia and Newark Airports. The bus terminal serves more passengers than both airports combined. Based on this measure alone, it should remain the Authority’s top priority.

Gateway

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners announced a joint financial commitment of $70 million to fast-track the permitting process for the Gateway Tunnel Project. In addition to new tunnels under the Hudson, the Gateway program will include a provision known as the “Bergen Loop” which would allow riders on the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines to travel directly to and from Manhattan without having to transfer — something Tri-State and Rockland County leaders pushed for through their role on the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force. The $70 million will be split evenly between the Port Authority and Amtrak, and will be used for preliminary engineering to advance the estimated $20 billion project.

This news is encouraging, but it also confirms that New Jersey Transit’s role will be at the kids’ table. NJ Transit rail riders have the most to gain from this project; by raising the red flag now, hopefully deference will be given to NJT’s input early on and throughout the process. U.S. Senator Cory Booker, however, was more optimistic: “We can’t do it without NJ Transit leadership… I’m a pragmatist. I want to get it done.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

2 Comments on "A Big Day for Improving Trans-Hudson Commutes"

  1. Clark Morris | March 25, 2016 at 3:03 pm |

    The Bergen Loop is idiotic. It will take more time than a transfer would. If it is desired to connect the Bergen lines to Penn Station, then have a double track line that goes directly west rather than going a mile south for the connection to the Bergen County lines.

  2. Someone did something to improve Trans Hudson commutes? Wow, that would be news if it were true. I gather that PA has decided to find a way to cram even more buses through the Lincoln Tunnel daily into some hoped for massive new sinkhole / money pit project in the many billions meant to create a new homeless shelter / bus terminal in Manhattan. I can’t wait to see how that turns out – if indeed it is completed in my lifetime.

    As to Gateway, I’m all for it; now we only have to find an entity actually competent enough to make it happen – again, in our lifetimes. I’m sure that ‘friends of PA’ are already lining up at the feeding trough for the graft and waste to start flowing into their open wallets. Who knows, it may even get done before the original tunnels finally collapse while waiting to be rebuilt.

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