Port Authority Chairman John Degnan and Executive Director Pat Foye are out. Former New Jersey Senator Kevin O’Toole and Cuomo staffer Rick Cotton are in.
With these major leadership changes at the bi-state agency, formally announced today, come great expectations and obligations. The Port Authority has been plagued by undercurrents of mismanagement and faulty prioritization in recent years, and that has resulted in 10 year capital plans that reflect patronage over regional need. But under Chairman Degnan’s tenure, major strides have been taking to increase transparency and public involvement, and to realign the agency back toward its original mission of meeting region’s transportation needs.
On the Port Authority’s most pressing need — the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Authority Bus Terminal — progress has ebbed and flowed (but mostly ebbed). After admitting the board was in over its head, the PANYNJ embarked on an expensive and time-consuming design competition in hopes of finding a workable solution. But today, there is still no consensus and no major construction plans over the next 10 years.
And of course we can’t forget about the Gateway tunnel program. The most urgent transportation project in the country isn’t a Port Authority project, but the agency is a key partner on the team working to make sure Gateway is funded and built.
There remain many question marks about what the changes in leadership will mean. Hopefully, the recent steps towards progress coupled with continued and focused scrutiny and oversight of this oft-overlooked agency will continue to move the needle on transparency and keep the construction of a new bus terminal at the top of the agency’s capital priorities.