Last week, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners announced it had finalized the breakdown for the Port Authority’s soon to be (but not yet) recently released 10-year capital plan. While the breakdown includes only $2.7 billion, less than 10 percent of the total, for the Gateway Program, it includes $3.2 billion for the PATH extension to Newark Liberty Airport and the LaGuardia AirTrain.
In terms of prioritizing the needs of the region, these projects – which Commissioner Kenneth Lipper said were “amongst the most ill-conceived projects that [he has] experienced in government” and “an absolute waste of public funds” – are not nearly as important as the Gateway Program.
The allocation of funds for these airport transit projects calls into question the Port Authority’s prioritization process. Certainly there are many factors that go into this kind of decision-making, but what if the Port Authority’s process began with a simple question: How many people will be impacted if we don’t do this project?
|Project||Annual Ridership||Projected Ridership||Impact of Inaction|
|EWR PATH Extension||2.5 million (at opening)||4 million
(20 years after open)
|Travelers can utilize existing bus and rail connections|
|LaGuardia AirTrain||Unknown (JFK AirTrain is 6.5 million)||N/A||Travelers can utilize existing bus connections|
|Gateway Program||55.8 million passengers use current North River tubes||Doubles capacity||Rail capacity between New York and New Jersey goes down by 75 percent|
As for airport access, getting to LaGuardia can be improved through bus lanes and other service improvements and Newark Airport is already accessible by train (which the Port Authority itself calls “fast and easy”) and bus.