JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Another board meeting of the region’s major transportation agency on Thursday produced few answers and continuing uncertainty over how the agency will spend its money over the next decade, particularly on a replacement for the nation’s busiest bus terminal, a battleground pitting New York and New Jersey factions.
Board members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were to vote Thursday on releasing a draft 10-year capital plan this month for public review over the next 60 days, with the goal of voting on final a plan soon after. But several commissioners expressed concerns about the plan they reviewed earlier in the day during a closed-door session, and no vote was taken.
The board agreed to hold a special meeting before the next scheduled board meeting in early February to try to reach consensus.
The Port Authority, which operates the region’s bridges, tunnels and transit hubs and owns the World Trade Center site, has spent the better part of this year overhauling the capital plan after one released in 2014 was criticized for not including money to replace New York’s decaying, six-decade-old Port Authority Bus Terminal. A draft plan initially was to be produced by September.
Thursday’s rift appeared to cast most of the board in opposition to Chairman John Degnan and Executive Director Patrick Foye, who said they and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supported the draft plan. The governors hold veto power over the Port Authority’s actions.
New York legislators strongly criticized Degnan last month, demanding he recuse himself from the bus terminal negotiations because of allegations of favoritism shown to New Jersey’s interests. Degnan was appointed by Christie, Foye by Cuomo. New Jersey legislators accused Cuomo of holding the bus terminal project hostage to preserve more money for a redevelopment of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
A new bus terminal has been estimated to cost $7.5 billion, Degnan said.
The $29.1 billion draft plan briefly summarized Thursday by Foye allocated $3.5 billion for the bus terminal. Degnan said the funding formula would be revisited once the design is refined and could include federal investment and public-private partnerships.
In a sign that Foye and Degnan — whose disagreements have often been aired openly at board meetings over the last several months — aren’t in complete harmony, Foye sent an email Thursday evening saying the draft plan "provides parity between the states and derails Chairman Degnan’s political agenda."
Foye went on to write that two-thirds of the bus terminal funding would be committed by New Jersey and one-third by New York — which "is directly proportional to the ridership from each state that uses the terminal."
Reached late Thursday, Degnan declined to respond to Foye’s charge of a political agenda. About the bus terminal, he said, "The plan speaks for itself. It was approved by both governors and it calls for $3.5 billion."
Whether any projects are cut to make way for the bus terminal remains to be seen. One commissioner said Thursday an extension of the PATH train to Newark Liberty International Airport and a train from LaGuardia to a station in Queens, are a "waste of public dollars" and should be shelved.
"You’ve heard of the Bridge to Nowhere?" commissioner Kenneth Lipper, a New York appointee, asked, referring to the nickname of an Alaska project mentioned in the 2008 presidential election as an example of wasteful federal spending. "These are the rails that will serve no one."
Lipper said the PATH train extension, which would connect Newark’s airport with lower Manhattan, is redundant because New Jersey Transit already goes there from midtown Manhattan’s Penn Station and only 1,000 to 3,000 people a day might use it.
Degnan, an advocate of the PATH extension, disagreed and said it also would benefit people who could commute into lower Manhattan from near the airport rather than drive.