Missed opportunity for a new Port Authority bus terminal - Metro US

Missed opportunity for a new Port Authority bus terminal

Recent news that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has yet another plan for rebuilding the existing 42nd Street Bus Terminal is disappointing. The approved Port Authority 2017 – 2026 ten-year $32 billion Capital Plan provided only $3.5 billion toward construction of the new $10 billion 42nd Street PA Bus Terminal. Initiation of another planning study for $70 million is just the first down payment. How many more years will it take to complete this study, environmental review process, preliminary along with final design and engineering?

It is wishful thinking that the Port Authority can count on $6.5 billion in future federal funding to make up the difference. Don’t be surprised in waiting until the next Port Authority ten year 2027 – 2036 Capital Plan before a complete $10 billion or more funding package is in place. This is necessary to support awarding construction contracts.

The Port Authority, MTA, NJ Transit, NYC DOT and other transportation agencies are counting on the same US Department of Transportation Federal Transit or Federal Highway Administration to help provide billions toward the $29 billion Gateway Tunnel, $10 billion Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel and $6 billion Phase Two Second Avenue Subway among many others.

Five years ago in December 2012, NYC officials and developers broke ground for the new Hudson Yards project which is to be built over the Long Island Rail Road Westside storage yard between 10th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan were all smiles. It left transit riders and taxpayers frowning. The existing 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal is antiquated lacking sufficient capacity to deal with current and future needs. Upon completion of their morning AM rush hour trips, hundreds of buses have to dead head back to New Jersey for midday storage. They have to make another return trip in the afternoon back to NYC for outbound evening service. Eliminating dead heading of buses would open up additional capacity for the already overcrowded Lincoln Tunnel. Relocating this facility to the Hudson Yards site would have provided the ideal solution. There would be the ability to expand capacity for new bus services. Hundreds of buses could lay over in Manhattan saving the costs of both fuel and deadheading to and from New Jersey.

Intermodal connections would have become available for the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, No. 1, 2, 3 ,7, A, E and C subways, ferry services at Pier 79 on West 38th Street along with the 34th Street Bus Rapid Transit route and other local bus services. Long term, there is also the possibility of future connections with Metro North. These new services would use existing Amtrak connections via the Bronx and Manhattan Westside and or Bronx/Queens via the Hellgate Bridge at a later date to begin service. Relocation of the Port Authority Bus Terminal to this new location would also compliment the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall. This project will convert the old Post Office to a new Amtrak Passenger Station as part of Penn Station. Reopening the old Hilton passageway (which was abandoned in the early 1980s) for $150 million could provide a direct underground connection from the LIRR at 7th Avenue to Herald Square at Broadway. This provides easy access to the B, D, F, M, R, N, Q and W subway lines along with PATH.

Virtually all the connections would be underground indoors easily walk able within minutes between services. With climate controlled facilities, passengers would be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. No one would be exposed to either rain, wind or snow. This would have been the greatest intermodal transportation facility moving more riders utilizing public transportation than any in America!

Remember that Port Authority still has to find $6.5 toward $10 billion for a new 42nd Street Bus Terminal. The existing site is prime real estate worth $1 billion or more. Construction for a new facility at Hudson Yards for several billion less could have been already underway. 

A new idea proposed by the Regional Planning Association to build the bus facility under the Javits Convention Center would never work. Costs for constructing a foundation to support the existing Javits Convention Center, a multistory garage beneath and accompanying ventilation system could be far more than $10 billion.

Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.

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