The New York City metro area took a giant step toward revitalizing its crumbling capacity-strained transport hubs on Thursday as a major bistate agency authorized up to $22 billion of spending on air, rail, and bus infrastructure.
Officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency responsible for much of the region’s transportation infrastructure, authorized the spending in what officials said was the biggest one-day capital allocation in its history.
The spending includes $4 billion to redevelop LaGuardia Airport, which U.S. Vice President Joe Biden likened to a third world country; $2.3 billion for Newark Airport; up to $15 billion for a new bus terminal in Manhattan; and $70 million for preliminary work on a $20 billion rail project that included a new tunnel under the Hudson River to alleviate pressure on a pair of century old tunnels in desperate need of repair.
The costs outlined by the officials do come with a certain amount of elasticity as the bus terminal’s plan is very preliminary.
“I think it represents the single largest allocation of capital on one day in Port Authority history,” said Patrick Foye, the Port Authority’s executive director.
The New York City metropolitan area is the largest regional economy in the nation. Valued at $1.4 trillion per year it is bigger than many countries. However, the dilapidated state of the region’s airports, train stations, roads and bus terminals are a constant source of complaints from commuters and travelers alike.
The agency’s board meeting was unusually colorful with simmering disputes over costs erupting into the open. The board’s Chairman John Degnan estimated LaGuardia’s overhaul would cost $5.3 billion and said the Port Authority bus terminal would likely cost between $10 billion to $12 billion.
Foye insists LaGuardia’s cost, much of which will be paid for through a public-private partnership, is $4 billion. He also assured regional commuters: “There will be no toll or fare revenue that goes into the airports.”
The projects have been in the pipeline for years and the Port Authority’s authorization marks an important step in turning them into reality.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has made rebuilding infrastructure a central part of his governorship, said the move was “a major milestone.” Cuomo is pushing for $100 billion of infrastructure spending throughout the state.
Global Gateway, a group that advocates for the region’s airports, welcomed the move but cautioned against resources being “siphoned off” for other projects and challenged the Port Authority to “stick to its commitments.”
The board approved a lease with LaGuardia Gateway Partners to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a new Terminal B. The project is expected to generate $1.3 billion in wages and $5.2 billion regional economic activity.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases)