June 3, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Last month several transportation agencies, including the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, convened in Lower Manhattan to discuss how to solve trans-Hudson transportation bottlenecks. New Jersey’s Senate President, Senator Steve Sweeney, called on the agency to commit to funding a new rail tunnel, which the agency did. But soon after the agency announced plans to spend $3.6 billion to redevelop LaGuardia Airport, the senator questioned why is the agency planning to spend $400 million on a new “Taj Mahal” at the airport.
“The Port Authority pledged to get out of the real estate development business and focus on its core transportation mission,” Senator Sweeny said in a statement. “This plan seems to run directly counter to that commitment. The Port Authority needs to get out of the real estate development business, and focus on finding funding for the new Gateway rail tunnel and rehabilitation and expansion of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen County) also joined the Senate President in criticizing the Port Authority’s decision to spend $400 million to build a hotel, conference center and retail stores at LaGuardia.
“You can’t have hundreds of thousands of bus commuters crammed into a substandard terminal every day and spend hundreds of millions of dollars building another Taj Mahal like we did with the white marble PATH station at the World Trade Center,” said Weinberg.
Both senators said the Port Authority should be more concerned about getting people into New York City.
“Buses are creeping through the Lincoln Tunnel into the Port Authority Bus Terminal bumper to bumper, and the terminal can’t handle today’s traffic, much less the projected increase in growth over the next 25 years,” Sweeney said. “Rail ridership from New Jersey is expected to double by 2040, but Penn Station is at capacity and there’s no place to put any more trains.”
In recent interviews with LaborPress, both Senator Sweeney and Amtrak’s chairman of the board, Anthony Coscia, expressed optimism that the region’s major transportation agencies, with the Port Authority leading the way, would invest in building out the Gateway Program—the Amtrak proposal to build a new trans-Hudson passenger rail tunnel to replace the current 105-year old tunnels after Governor Chris Christie cancelled the Access to the Region’s Core project, as well as build a four-track segment between New York’s Penn Station and Newark’s Penn Station and a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, which is also over 100 years old.