Skip to content

Posts from the "Port Authority" Category

51 Comments

Chris Christie Expected to Kill ARC Transit Tunnel

Gov. Chris Christie is expected to kill the critical ARC transit tunnel project, reports say. Photo: NJ.com.

Gov. Chris Christie is expected to kill the critical ARC transit tunnel project, reports say. Photo: Star-Ledger.

The largest federal transit investment in American history is on its deathbed, reports Andrea Bernstein at Transportation Nation. Three sources have told Bernstein that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is ready to pull the plug on the plan to double rail capacity under the Hudson River this week, though Christie denies his mind is made up.

We’ve already outlined just how important this project is to the future of New Jersey and how shortsighted this decision would be for the Christie administration, so with this devastating news, the only thing we can do is look forward.

First, the predictable stuff: If ARC dies, New Jersey will keep its $2.7 billion share of project funds, which Christie is expected to use to patch up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund for a couple of years so that he doesn’t have to raise the gas tax to pay for the state’s roads. The Port Authority will recoup its $3 billion, some of which will end up back in New Jersey and some in New York. The authority’s capital plan currently calls for no new pieces of infrastructure, so it’s possible this money will fund necessary repairs on existing bridges and tunnels.

The wildcard is where the Federal Transit Administration’s $3 billion winds up. When New York City activists defeated the Westway highway project 25 years ago, House Speaker Tip O’Neill managed to capture a large share of its funding for Boston’s Big Dig. The $350 million that US DOT offered New York to help implement congestion pricing in 2008 almost ended up paying for a Chicago BRT system, though Chicago ultimately balked as well.

Who will get the billions of dollars that Christie is on the verge of passing up? Place your bets — or vent your anger — in the comments.

7 Comments

New York Transportation Officials: We’re Broke

cap

In the absence of funds, transportation agencies are looking for cost-effective ways to move people. The Port Authority suggested it would be open to increasing Holland Tunnel capacity with a bus lane, for example. Photo: keithlam via Flickr.

The state’s top transportation officials delivered some tough news to the construction industry Friday: Public agencies are so cash-strapped they don’t even have enough money to maintain existing infrastructure.

With budgets battered by rising maintenance costs and recession-ravaged revenues, an industry-sponsored conference offered little prospect of further expansions to the state’s transportation system beyond the projects currently underway. Some combination of new revenue streams, cost-saving measures, and public-private partnerships will be necessary simply to keep New York moving, most suggested. Meanwhile, the cozy relationship between public officials and construction industry heavyweights was on full display, at times contradicting the general message of austerity.

Speaker after speaker laid out the costs involved just to maintain the state’s aging infrastructure. Joel Ettinger, the head of the New York City region’s metropolitan planning organization, said that over the next twenty-five years, “an amazing 98 percent of the money is going to go just to state of good repair and operations.” That’s a full $950 billion through 2035, he said.

Port Authority tunnels, bridges, and terminals director Victoria Cross Kelly presented her agency’s top capital project priorities, including billion dollar replacements of the Goethals Bridge, the George Washington Bridge suspender cables, and the New Jersey approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as a number of smaller projects. “Each and every one of these has somewhere in their title ‘rehab’ or ‘replace,’” she said. “There’s no new added functionality.”

New York City Transit’s chief engineer, Fredrick Smith, pointed to the system’s dire need for new track signals. Currently, a quarter of the subway’s signals are over 70 years old. “How reliable do you think that is?” he asked. Unfortunately, the MTA capital plan for 2010-2014 is only funded through next year and the bulk of the signal work is theoretically scheduled for 2012.

Even for the basic tasks of keeping bridges up, roads paved, and transit running, current funding is inadequate. “Increased, stable resources need to be provided,” said acting NYS DOT director Stanley Gee. Gee singled out the project to rebuild the deteriorating Tappan Zee Bridge and add transit access across it as particularly problematic. “There’s no way that existing tolls can build that bridge,” he said.

As for where that money might come from, Gee was open to any possibility. “Pricing obviously is one,” he said. He also suggested a mileage tax to replace declining gas tax revenue. Gee isn’t counting on help from one potential savior, however: the federal government. “We don’t expect a long-term extension of federal funding any time soon.” Gee ultimately urged the audience, filled with politically powerful firms, to convince elected officials to fund transportation.

From a sustainability perspective, the upside of the funding scarcity is that many transportation agencies are looking to do more with less — and that can mean prioritizing transit. “We need to focus on making the best use of what lanes and tracks we have,” said Port Authority Director of Regional Development Andy Lynn. Calling the Lincoln Tunnel’s exclusive bus lane a great success story, Lynn said “We need more of that.” During the Holland Tunnel’s evening rush, he noted, buses make up less than three percent of the vehicles, but carry 48 percent of the people. There is currently no exclusive bus lane in the Holland Tunnel.

Read more…

28 Comments

The Financial Foolishness of Christie’s ARC Gambit

rail_tunnels

Without ARC, these century-old tunnels will remain the only way for NJ Transit commuters to get to Manhattan. Photo: NJ Transit via Second Avenue Sagas

Two weekends ago, construction on New Jersey’s most important transit project was called to a temporary stop by Governor Chris Christie. He declared a thirty-day review period for the ARC tunnel project, which would build a new rail tunnel below the Hudson and double commuter rail capacity from New Jersey. Many worry the review is just a prelude to axing the $8.7 billion project altogether and using the money saved to patch up New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund for a couple of years.

Advocates are now mobilizing to save ARC. People who live, work, or attend school in New Jersey can send a letter to the Christie administration through the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s “We Need ARC” petition.

Currently, only a single pair of century-old tunnels carry New Jersey Transit trains into Penn Station, and with NJ Transit ridership more than quadrupling since the 1980s, those tunnels are at capacity. “Every two minutes, a train enters Midtown Manhattan from New Jersey,” said Juliette Michaelson of the Regional Plan Association. “That capacity cannot increase.”

Without a new tunnel, commuter rail in New Jersey simply cannot expand. If ARC is built, however, it would be expected to carry 100,000 more commuters into Midtown, more than doubling capacity. Estimates suggest 22,000 cars would be taken off the road as a result. “It’s a game-changer,” said Michaelson.

Christie’s decision to halt all work on the project for thirty days has put the project in grave peril.

Read more…

9 Comments

Port Authority Chief Calls for Green Overhaul of Region’s Freight System

CarGoTram.jpgPort Authority exec Chris Ward pointed to Dresden's CarGoTram as a sustainable freight mover that the region could learn from. Image: Wikimedia.
In a region where passenger transportation is being reimagined, freight needs to catch up. That's the message Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, delivered in a "call to arms" at Baruch College this morning. After outlining the importance and challenges of moving freight, Ward put forward the beginning of a plan to rationalize cargo movement, calling for a combination of new infrastructure, new pricing schemes, and centralized distribution centers scattered across the New York region. 

Ward's speech marked the release of the Port Authority's report "Freight and the Region's Future," a preliminary document that is part of a multi-year analysis of goods movement. But before Ward began to offer solutions, he impressed upon the crowd the urgency of the problem, which he called "likely the number one economic challenge facing this region." 

Freight feeds the region, both economically and literally; one quarter of all trucks crossing the Hudson east are carrying food. But that lifeline is being choked by the region's own prosperity, argued Ward. In the next 25 years, he said, truck loads are expected to grow by 39 percent and vehicle hours of delay by 57 percent. In contrast, population and employment are expected to grow 15 and 19 percent, respectively. The region will need to shed that economic dead weight in order to continue to prosper, Ward argued.

What's more, freight movement uses some of the dirtiest vehicles on the road. Calling air pollution a "public health crisis," Ward wondered why "we tend to disassociate it from goods movement." Any discussion of emissions or sustainability needs to include freight.

Read more...
19 Comments

Port Authority Commits to Agency-Wide Plan for Better Bike Access

BikeRacksPATH_1.jpgBike racks, like these at the Grove Street PATH Station, could be a more common sight at Port Authority facilities. Image: City of Jersey City

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a huge player in the region's transportation system. It manages the PATH train, the world's busiest bus terminal, all the major airports and seaports, and the bridges and tunnels between New York City and New Jersey. Now the Port Authority is adding one more mode to its portfolio: the bicycle.

In a statement earlier this week, Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward announced the agency's intent to support cycling "wherever operationally and financially feasible." 

Ward's March 29 bulletin, posted by the Century Road Club Association, signals the Port Authority's new commitment to get behind the region's upsurge in cycling. Wrote Ward:

Bicycling is a rapidly growing mode of transportation and the New York-New Jersey region is facing increased demand for expanded bicycle infrastructure, safer bicycle routes, access to transit connections and secure parking facilities. While we recognize that many Port Authority facilities currently provide some accommodations for bicycle users, we need to prepare more systematically for the growing use of bicycles as a mode of travel within the regional transportation system.

Ward then listed ways in which the Port Authority plans to promote cycling, from rewriting rules about bike access to the Port Authority's bridges, trains, and terminals, to adding bike lanes and parking at new and existing facilities and developing multi-modal transit hubs. The Port Authority will also use its power as a major landlord in both states -- most famously owning the World Trade Center site -- to work with tenants on becoming more bike-friendly. A Port Authority bike master plan is due by the end of September.

For current and would-be cyclists in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority is a very important ally.

Read more...
12 Comments

Infrastructure Bigs: To Compete, NYC Needs Congestion Pricing, Tolls

Holland_Tunnel_tolls.jpgTolls at the Holland Tunnel. Now the Port Authority is looking for the next financing model. Image: Library of Congress.

At a panel put on by the New School last week, some of New York's biggest players in transportation and planning came together to discuss the future of the city's infrastructure. They all seemed to agree: The city can't keep up with its global competitors without new sources of revenue.

Christopher Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, framed the stakes: "We have to ask, what builds wealth?" The other panelists concurred: New York's health and economic dominance won't continue without consistent investment in its infrastructure, particularly its transportation network.

Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, put it more directly. "We have spent the last 20 years trying to get our infrastructure back to pre-1970 levels," he said. Without moving further, "We will not be able to compete with other world cities."

Read more...
4 Comments

Port Authority Work Puts GWB Sidewalks on Shifts

Streetsblog has gotten word that, due to Port Authority construction and maintenance work, the north and south sidewalks of the George Washington Bridge will be closing intermittently until further notice.

According to a spokesperson, the authority plans to have the paths open on an alternating basis. Updates are posted on the PA website, and are also available by signing up for cyclist and pedestrian email and mobile alerts.

12 Comments

Streetfilms: Hey Port Authority, How About More Room for Buses?

Over 315,000 bus riders cross the Hudson River each weekday. More than half of these bus riders travel through the Lincoln Tunnel, but the exclusive bus lane, which only operates during the morning rush hour, is at capacity.

This Streetfilm, produced in collaboration with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and with animation by Hugh Gran and Carly Clark, offers recommendations on what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey can do to improve these bus crossings. You can also download TSTC's full May 2009 report on area bus service [PDF] for more info.

4 Comments

TSTC to Port Authority: Bus Service Across Hudson Needs to Improve, Fast

tstc_bus_graph.jpgAverage weekday eastbound trips, 2008. Source: TSTC/Port Authority of NY & NJ.
The Lincoln Tunnel Express Bus Lane is a congestion-busting powerhouse, moving 62,000 riders into Manhattan during the morning rush every day and enticing huge numbers of commuters to leave their cars at home. It is now "the most efficient roadway in the country," according to an analysis by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. One shudders to think of the traffic nightmare we'd have without it.

The Lincoln Tunnel XBL was established all the way back in 1971. In the last 38 years, bus ridership crossing the Hudson has boomed, especially this decade, but capacity for buses hasn't kept pace. Unless provisions are made to accommodate more bus travel -- and soon -- riders will face slower trips, the ridership gains of recent years will flatten out, and traffic troubles will deepen as more commuters choose to drive.

The good news is that it doesn't take all that much time or money to deliver some significant enhancements for bus riders. In a new report, "Express Route to Better Bus Service" [PDF], Tri-State lays out a strategy to expand on the success of the Lincoln Tunnel XBL and make bus travel more attractive for all trips across the Hudson. It's a wake-up call for the Port Authority to get moving on some long-overdue improvements.

"A population nearly the size of Cincinnati travels by bus across the Hudson River every weekday, but plans to enhance service for these riders are stalled," said Tri-State's Veronica Vanterpool, co-author of the report. "With bus travel anticipated to grow, we need to stop treating bus riders like second-class citizens and provide them with faster commutes and better access to information."

Tri-State recommends creating a westbound Lincoln Tunnel XBL during the evening rush and moving full-speed ahead with plans for a new high occupancy/toll lane for the morning commute (which has been stuck in the study phase for way too long). The report also touches on strategies to speed bus service across other Hudson River crossings, organize on-street loading for the city's growing volume of private bus operators, and make it easier for riders to plan their trips.

Follow the jump for the full slate of Tri-State's major recommendations.

Read more...
12 Comments

Washington Heights Greenway Segment Re-Opens

3087731332_2068c6acd5.jpgHudson River Greenway detour signage is on its way out. Photo: BikeSeens/Flickr
It took four months longer than expected, but here's good news from the Port Authority, care of The Manhattan Times, regarding the greenway detour between W. 158th and 181st Streets:

The pathway in the park near the George Washington Bridge has been reopened to pedestrians and bicyclists as of this morning 4/28/09 and will not require any further closures.

Assuming no other projects are pending elsewhere along the route, it looks like bike riders and walkers can finally take advantage of an uninterrupted path from Battery Park to Inwood.