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Focus on Path Extension, Tunnel Helix at Hearing on Port Authority's $32B Plan

Friday, February 3, 2017   (0 Comments)
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NJspotlight.com 02/03/17

In the weeks that followed the Port Authority’s unveiling of a plan to spend $32 billion on infrastructure improvements over the next decade, New Jersey commuters and transportation advocates have questioned why there’s only partial funding to replace the agency’s aging, flagship bus terminal. But during a public hearing Tuesday, on the bistate agency’s 10-year capital plan, it was several other proposed projects that could have an impact on New Jersey commuters that drew more attention, including a proposed extension of PATH-train service to Newark Liberty Airport.

Several of those who testified during the hearing specifically addressed the proposal to spend $1.7 billion to extend the PATH’s existing service beyond Newark Penn Station to the airport, calling it a potential boon for both lower Manhattan and Newark’s South Ward. Other projects that drew attention included the proposed bus-terminal replacement and work on the Lincoln Tunnel helix.

In all, the capital plan includes $29.5 billion in direct investment by the Port Authority, which owns and operates most of the region’s major airports, ports, bridges and tunnels. Another $2.7 billion in the plan is set aside for debt service for the long-planned Gateway project, a $24 billion project that calls for the construction of two new rail tubes under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey with midtown Manhattan and several other infrastructure upgrades.

The capital plan includes $3.5 billion to begin the planned replacement of the agency’s bus terminal in midtown Manhattan, not enough to finish a project that will cost between $7.5 billion and $10 billion. That’s drawn concern from New Jersey commuters and transportation advocates who want to see more funding allocated to the bus terminal replacement and a quicker timeline. Demand at the 1950s-era facility is projected to increase by 10 percent by 2020, and up to 50 percent by 2040 as job growth in New York City is expected to continue to outpace economic development in New Jersey.

Location for new bus terminal still hasn’t been chosen
But keeping the terminal itself in Manhattan has also been a big priority; at one point, officials in New York threatened to block the Port Authority’s attempts to keep the facility in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, suggesting it could even be moved into New Jersey. While an exact location still hasn’t been picked, the capital plan calls for the facility to remain in midtown, and there was little evidence during yesterday’s hearing of the friction that occurred over the summer.

Councilman says PATH extension would give new opportunities to Newark residents

Newark Councilman John James praised the inclusion of the PATH extension to Newark Liberty, saying it would provide new opportunities for residents of his city. “It’s not just an expansion,” James said. “We have a neighborhood that’s been trapped because we have limited transportation.”

Mayor urges officials to work with local community on Lincoln Tunnel helix
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner spoke specifically about the plan to replace the Lincoln Tunnel helix, which is the system of ramps that leads traffic directly into the tunnel. He urged agency officials to work cooperatively with the local community as the project goes forward. “You have to keep in mind to include the impact on the community,” he said.

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