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Cuomo’s no-win Port Authority power grab

cuomo-podium

By Post Editorial Board

March 19, 2017 | 8:55pm

Think the Port Authority is slow and dysfunctional now? Watch what happens if lawmakers OK Gov. Cuomo’s demand for a new “New York” inspector general/prosecutor for the PA. A wooly mammoth trapped in a tar pit would move faster.

That became clear over the past two weeks amid a wave of scathing criticism — and not just from the New Jersey side of the bi-state agency.

Cuomo’s IG would be installed by — and answer to — him alone, with the power to prosecute crimes that affect New York. But a resolution in the Jersey Senate calls that “patently illegal.” Its Office of Legislative Services concludes the PA would “have no obligation to comply.”

So, expect the idea to be dragged into court, tying up vital agency business, possibly for years. That would slow or freeze a host of vital, multibillion-dollar projects, from airport renovation to a new Hudson rail tunnel.

In a letter to lawmakers, six PA commissioners (including Ken Lipper, who was tapped by Cuomo himself) say the gov wants “dictatorial” control over the PA by gaining the power to threaten prosecution. They say some of them would quit, along with top managers, if the IG were OK’d.

http://nypost.com/2017/03/19/cuomos-no-win-port-authority-power-grab/

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Ex-N.J. treasurer: How to make the Port Authority efficient as it turns 100

John Shaft

Posted on March 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Memo to Govs. Cuomo and Christie: Wouldn’t a stronger and more focused, efficient, and accountable Port Authority of New York and New Jersey be a great 100th birthday present for our region? 
BY STAR-LEDGER GUEST COLUMNIST

By Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff

In 2021, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be 100 years old. How shall we celebrate?

It’s been a busy couple of years for Port Authority watchers.  As if the fundamentally bizarre Bridgegate mess, an old-school bribery scandal involving a former Port Authority chairman and United Airlines, and recent back-to-the-future revelations that almost 40 Port Authority police officers may have systematically neglected their duties weren’t enough to feed the tabloid maw, recent months have seen a notable escalation of bitter power struggles between New York and New Jersey over the Port Authority’s $32 billion capital plan and long-overdue legislation to revamp the bistate authority’s awkward governance structure.

Inevitably, like sharks drawn by the scent of blood in the water, opportunistic politicians and well-meaning advocates have leveraged the current stalemate and confusion to advance a range of ideas for reforming and restructuring the Port Authority.  And why not?  Can you think of a better time to have an open and informed public conversation about the Port Authority?

Let’s begin at the beginning: Should this bistate agency exist?

http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/03/how_to_make_the_pa_efficient_as_it_turns_100_opinion.html#incart_river_index

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Port Authority eyeing harness-equipped suicide prevention units on George Washington Bridge

GWB

At least one Emergency Service Unit tandem — two cops equipped with harnesses — would be permanently stationed on the George Washington Bridge to more quickly respond to people trying to jump from the iconic span, according to a proposal under consideration.

The Port Authority Police Department’s top cop said Monday that the plan would be discussed Tuesday — among other options — to address safety concerns raised by union officials and officers assigned to the agency’s suicide prevention team.

“The safety of our officers is the most important thing,” said Port Authority Police Superintendent Michael Fedorko. “I want to give them all the support they need.”

The Daily News reported Sunday that members of the Port Authority Police Department’s Suicide Prevention Walkway Patrol-Suicide Prevention Team saved 70 people from jumping from the George Washington Bridge last year.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/port-authority-eyeing-harness-equipped-cops-gwb-article-1.2977743

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NEW ELEVATED BAYONNE BRIDGE ROADWAY OPENS ON MONDAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 20

Bayonne Bridge

February 20,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

With milestone, bridge becomes the Port Authority’s first all-cashless tolling facility

The Bayonne Bridge’s new elevated roadway will open to drivers on Monday at 5 a.m., ushering in a new era for the 85-year-old arch bridge that will now become the Port Authority’s first all-cashless tolling facility.

The new roadway is 215 feet above the Kill van Kull and 64 feet above the original bridge deck. It is part of the Port Authority’s “Raise the Roadway” initiative to provide navigational clearance for the larger container vessels now using the expanded Panama Canal that are expected to arrive at all agency port facilities later this year.

The project represents a unique engineering achievement, during which the new roadway was built while the existing roadway remained in service with limited disruption to traffic.

When the new roadway opens, the existing toll plaza will be taken out of service and replaced with an overhead gantry, mounted with electronic toll collection equipment. Drivers will no longer slow down or stop at a toll booth, and will benefit from being able to continue driving through the crossing at the posted speed limit.

More than 90 percent of Bayonne Bridge drivers already use E-ZPass and they will experience no other changes. However, E-ZPass users must make sure their tag is properly mounted in the vehicle’s windshield, to ensure it will be detected by the electronic toll collecting equipment.

For the less than 10 percent of Bayonne Bridge drivers who do not use E-ZPass, an overhead camera will photograph the vehicle’s license plate and a toll bill will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner. These bills must be paid by the due date noted on the bill. Unpaid toll bills will be assessed additional fees and ultimately escalate to violations, with a $50 fee assessed for each violation.

Further information about cashless tolling at the Bayonne Bridge can be found at www.panynj.gov/BayonneToll.

The Port Authority aggressively enforces toll payment through a multi-pronged approach that focuses primarily on persistent toll violators. Unpaid toll violations are sent to a collection agency and may be pursued through litigation. Toll evaders also may face criminal charges and arrest by Port Authority Police. The agency also partners with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to seek the suspension of vehicle registrations for persistent violators with New York-registered vehicles.

When the new roadway opens, all traffic crossing Route 440 between Bayonne, N.J. and Staten Island, N.Y. will be directed by signs to the bridge’s new approach roadways and over the elevated span.

“On February 20, we will make history,’’ said Steven Plate, the Port Authority’s chief of major capital projects. “The Bayonne Bridge, a marvel of 20th century engineering, will become a groundbreaking innovation of the 21st century.’’

At first, the new Bayonne Bridge roadway will continue to accommodate one lane of traffic in each direction. The new roadway will reach its full width – four 12-foot lanes plus inner and outer shoulders, a median barrier and a 10-foot shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians – by 2019.

The Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project will enable today’s larger, more efficient and more environmentally beneficial container ships to pass beneath the Bayonne Bridge when traveling to Port Newark/Elizabeth and Howland Hook. The project is under construction by the joint venture of Skanska/Koch/Kiewit Infrastructure Co. (JV).

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PORT AUTHORITY PLANNING NEW 42ND BUS TERMINAL

saturday night fever

PORT AUTHORITY BOARD AUTHORIZES PLANNING FOR NEW BUS TERMINAL, INTERIM SOLUTIONS FOR EXISTING TERMINAL
February 17,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today authorized the agency to begin the first phase of a comprehensive planning process for the replacement of the midtown bus terminal – including the hiring of environmental and technical consultants to ensure compliance with federal, state and local review processes.

The planning process will include evaluation of potential intermediate bus staging and storage facilities and other initiatives to sustain and meet capacity requirements for efficient operations of the interstate bus network, including the existing PABT facility. These initiatives will help ensure the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal is able to continue to meet current bus and passenger demand.

“We continue to acknowledge that, while the new Port Authority Bus Terminal is a critical first step in improving trans-Hudson commuting, it is only one piece of a menu of options that must be in place to meet the needs created by future demand increases,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “The Port Authority will work with our stakeholders to take their important views into account, as we did at the 2015 Trans-Hudson Summit and in the 2016 Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study.”

“Meeting the needs of the growing number of the region’s bus commuters is an essential component of the Port Authority’s transportation mission, and this project will be done while fully respecting and minimizing the impacts on Manhattan’s West Side after and considering the input of residents there in a formal environmental process,’’ said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye.

The board authorized the agency to hire environmental and technical consultants to provide project management and planning services for the bus terminal replacement, and to evaluate interim solutions for the existing terminal. These consultants would ensure that all planning stages comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and/or all applicable review processes, and that there is coordination with stakeholders and adherence to eligibility requirements for federal funding.

Planning for a new bus terminal will include identifying an optimal location based on ongoing engagement with the City of New York and other New York and New Jersey stakeholders. Additionally, it will include reviewing the agency’s previous midtown bus master planning effort, the analysis and suggestions of the Port Authority Bus Terminal International Design + Deliverability Competition and the findings of the Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study commissioned by the board.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, located on Manhattan’s West Side, opened in 1950 and last underwent a major expansion in 1979. Each weekday it accommodates approximately 232,000 passenger trips and 7,800 bus movements. Demand is expected to increase by 51 percent, with up to 337,000 weekday passenger trips, by 2040.

Even at today’s levels of bus demand, the bus terminal routinely operates beyond capacity during peak travel hours. Through an ongoing Quality of Commute initiative, the Port Authority has partnered with bus operators on operational changes that have reduced crowding within the terminal and relieved congestion caused by buses on nearby streets.

However, a lack of strategically located bus parking, and facilities for the staging of empty buses ready to enter the terminal to pick up afternoon commuters, remains a persistent problem. The Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study suggested that the addition of parking and staging facilities is needed to help the bus terminal accommodate growing demand.

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PORT AUTHORITY BOARD APPROVES LARGEST EVER $32.2 BILLION 10-YEAR CAPITAL PLAN

John Shaft

February 17,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Plan reflects agency’s return to its core transportation mission; Leverages private sector dollars to help rebuild region’s aging infrastructure; Creates 235,400 job years and $56 billion in overall economic activity

Ridgewood NJ, The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today approved the agency’s largest ever $32.2 billion 2017-2026 Capital Plan, which reflects the agency’s continuing return to its core transportation mission and is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in overall economic activity for the region.

The plan allows for $11.6 billion in major redevelopment projects to advance at the region’s major airports during the next decade, including the $4 billion LaGuardia Terminal B replacement, the largest transportation public-private partnership in the United States. It also provides for the advancement of work on Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport and the redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport, under which Port Authority investments are expected to leverage billions of dollars of private sector investment.

At the agency’s tunnels, bridges and terminals, the plan provides $10 billion to greatly enhance trans-Hudson commuting, including the construction of new facilities and the upgrading of existing ones. Funds are included to complete the $1.5 billion Goethals Bridge Replacement, being done through the first true surface transportation PPP in the Northeast. It also provides funding to complete the rebuilding of the Bayonne Bridge, a $1.6 billion project that will effectively provide a brand new bridge for travelers and remove an existing navigational impediment to allow modern ships to pass underneath it and keep the ports competitive. The plan includes $3.5 billion to begin planning and construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and nearly $2 billion to complete the largest overhaul and rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge ever undertaken in the bridge’s 85-year history.

The Capital Plan also includes funding to rebuild some of PATH’s aging rail stations and to upgrade other critical rail system infrastructure to ensure safety and service reliability. Funds also are included to plan and build an extension of the PATH system from its current terminus at Newark Penn Station to the Newark Liberty International Airport Air Link Station, a project designed to improve airport access and enhance trans-Hudson commutation.

To further address the region’s critical trans-Hudson transportation needs, the plan also provides the largest contribution of any stakeholder to date — $2.7 billion — for the critical trans-Hudson rail tunnel link between New York and New Jersey and Portal Bridge North projects. The contribution will pay debt service on expected borrowing by the Gateway Program Development Corporation from low-interest federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loans.

The 10-year plan will accelerate the rebuilding of the region’s aging infrastructure by leveraging billions in private sector dollars including through public-private partnerships on major transportation and terminal projects, including those at the airports and bridges. The plan’s multibillion investment is expected to result in the creation of 235,400 job years, $20 billion in total wages and $56 billion in overall economic activity.

“There’s no question that the region’s transportation needs are growing at a far greater rate than the resources that are available to address them,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “For that reason, this Board has spent tireless hours coming to a consensus on how our resources will be spent to benefit the region and the customers we serve. We have developed a plan that invests in the most critical projects including critical improvements to trans-Hudson capacity, while providing the flexibility to make future changes should new, more vital needs emerge.”

“This region needs state-of-the-art airports, new mass transit infrastructure, and bridges designed to handle 21st Century traffic levels if we are to meet growth projections,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “This 10-year plan provides a record level of investment in all of these areas that will meet and support the region’s growth and serve as a major job creator for the next decade.”

“This plan provides significant benefits for the millions of travelers who use the region’s airports, tunnels, bridges, terminals and mass transit system, and it’s also a lifeline for thousands of our members given the tens of thousands of good paying jobs these projects will create. We strongly support the Port Authority’s continuing plans to invest in public sector transportation projects that are good for the region and good for those who live and work here,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

“The Port Authority’s proposed 10-year, $32 billion capital plan provides the strategic investments necessary to support the modernization of critical transportation infrastructure, including JFK and LaGuardia Airports, Port Authority Bus Terminal and Bayonne and Goethals Bridges, as well as funding for the Gateway Program, possibly the most important set of projects in the country. The Port Authority’s plan, along with Governor Cuomo’s pledge to invest in aging infrastructure, provide the extensive commitments necessary to support the sustained growth of the metropolitan region. We look forward to working with the Port Authority to build, repair, and renew all of these vital assets,” said New York Building Congress President & CEO Carlo A. Scissura.The approval followed a month-long public comment period – including two first-ever public meetings in each state that were attended by commissioners and agency leadership. Prior to the Board’s vote to move the proposed plan forward on January 5 for public comment, there was robust debate and discussion by Board members over how to parcel out limited resources to the agency’s growing list of capital investment needs.

Since the Board’s January 5 meeting, the agency received 429 comments on its plan from 365 individuals. Fifty-five speakers attended the public meetings in both states to comment on specific items in the document and 9 people Tweeted comments about it. An additional 327 comments were emailed and 12 comments were received by mail. The Board of Commissioners received periodic summaries of the public comments prior to today’s Board meeting.

The 10-year plan approved today includes $29.5 billion in direct spending on Port Authority projects and the $2.7 billion commitment to support debt service on the Gateway passenger rail tunnel project.

The plan outlines specific funding commitments for major capital projects the agency will invest in over the next 10 years. All projects remain subject to Board authorization processes, and, before they proceed, are subject to a rigorous “gates” review process before they proceed that look at agency revenue and the ability to finance them.

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De Blasio administration raises concerns about new Manhattan bus terminal

saturday-night-fever-image

By RYAN HUTCHINS and SALLY GOLDENBERG

02/07/17 06:02 PM EST

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is raising concerns about the effects of building a new Port Authority Bus Terminal on the Far West Side of Manhattan, saying this week that the bi-state agency must explore possible alternatives as it prepares to construct a new facility.

The position is sure to stoke fresh acrimony between public officials on both sides of the Hudson River after they had come to an understanding about how to move forward with the new terminal.

http://www.politico.com/states/new-jersey/story/2017/02/de-blasio-administration-raises-concerns-about-new-manhattan-bus-terminal-109420

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Democratic legislators from New Jersey and New York Dumb as a Box of Rocks

Weinberg

Editorial: PA has nothing to do with Trump order

NorthJersey4:31 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2017

People can blame the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for many things, but President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations is not one of them.

On Wednesday, Democratic legislators from New Jersey and New York, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, announced bistate legislation that would prevent the Port Authority from using its resources to uphold the president’s executive order. This was shameless grandstanding.

http://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/02/editorial-pa-has-nothing-do-trump-order/97407630/

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How to fix the Port Authority

Shaft_017Pyxurz

By Post Editorial Board

January 29, 2017

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is an $8 billion behemoth plagued by “politicized decision-making, money-losing facilities and declining financial viability,” notes a new Manhattan Institute report that outlines how to fix it.

And thereby end the massive cost overruns, bloated payrolls, regular scandals and general waste that define the modern PA.

Authored by the Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole, a national transportation expert, the 24-page report pushes a total reinvention of the PA’s unsustainable business model, especially the way it finances its system.

Using airports, bridges and tunnels as cash cows to cover ongoing losses at other operations, like the PATH, Poole rightly notes, has meant “mediocre airports, congested and inadequate bridges and tunnels, money-losing seaports, a pathetic bus terminal, and the worst heavy-rail transit system in the nation.” And no cash available to reinvest in fixing or replacing what’s wrong.

Instead, the PA should move to finance projects via public-private partnerships, with public pension funds as key investors.

The agency would no longer own or operate the tunnels, airports, etc., but rather regulate an array of concession companies held accountable via bond covenants and the conditions of their long-term contracts.

Up-front payments for the concessions, along with investments, would provide the revenue for replacement infrastructure.

http://nypost.com/2017/01/29/how-to-fix-the-port-authority/

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Report proposes radical Port Authority shakeup

John Shaft

Paul Berger , Staff writer, @pdbergerPublished 6:16 p.m. ET Jan. 25, 2017 | Updated 14 hours ago

New Jersey motorists are being cheated out of hundreds of millions of dollars of toll revenue that could be reinvested in better bridges and tunnels, according to a new report by a conservative think tank that proposes a radical fix for the dysfunctional public agency charged with keeping the region moving.

The report from the Manhattan Institute says the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should reinvest the enormous profits from its Hudson River crossings and its airports to improve those facilities, instead of subsidizing money-losing operations such as the PATH rail system and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Struggling facilities should be forced to become self-financing through private-sector partnerships, the report adds.

 

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/transportation/2017/01/25/report-proposes-radical-port-authority-shakeup/97043718/?utm_campaign=Observer_NJ_Politics&utm_content=New%20Campaign&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=New%20Jersey%20Politics