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Top New Jersey Democratic lawmakers take aim at $1B Port Authority

Thursday, July 10, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Top New Jersey Democratic lawmakers take aim at $1B Port Authority (07/10/14)

New Jersey’s top Democrats are pressing the Port Authority to scrap a little-known program that gives the governors on both sides of the Hudson River partial control of nearly $1 billion for pet projects over the next decade. The money in the so-called regional bank program comes from the tolls and fares collected at the agency’s bridges, tunnels and airports. But the governors of New Jersey and New York can tap the money for spending unrelated to the agency’s facilities or its mission — transportation. The program, recently replenished with hundreds of millions of dollars that has yet to be spent, has attracted new attention as New Jersey Democrats call for upgrades to the Port Authority’s midtown Manhattan bus terminal, a cramped and outdated building that is often derided by New Jersey’s bus commuters.

When the Port Authority approved its largest-ever toll hikes in 2011, it dropped plans for $800 million in upgrades to the bus terminal, saying it could no longer afford them. But the agency found about $950 million to put into the regional bank over the next 10 years for unspecified projects or spending that can be requested by Trenton or Albany. Now Democrats want the Port Authority to redirect money to the bus terminal, a way station for about 225,000 bus commuters every day, more than half of them from Bergen and Passaic counties. Although the Port Authority owns the terminal, NJ Transit, the state’s public bus operator, is its largest tenant and pays to use it. Each state will get $15 million per year from 2014 to 2018 for unspecified “infrastructure renewal” projects. From 2019 to 2023, each state is allotted a total of $225 million to spend, but New York will gets an additional $250 million for “Regional Transportation Programs” during those five years.

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