Port Authority OKs $7.8 billion budget; critics say it shortchanges aging NYC bus terminal

Government And Institutions Associated Press

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey approved a 2015 budget Wednesday that the agency said holds operating expenses at or below the rate of inflation for the ninth year in a row but was criticized for not allocating enough money to replace New York's aging bus terminal.

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The Port Authority on Wednesday said the proposed $7.8 billion budget holds operating expenses to $2.9 billion, a 1.8 percent increase over 2014, said executive director Pat Foye. The agency said the increase will be offset by increased rental revenue at the redeveloped World Trade Center site.

Capital investment comprises $3.6 billion of the budget, with the rest taken up by debt ($1.1 billion) and other expenditures. The biggest chunk of the capital budget, 45 percent, will go to various World Trade Center projects, including $632 million for infrastructure, $350 million to complete a $4 billion transportation hub, $349 million to finish One World Trade Center construction and $294 million for retail redevelopment.

Critics of the budget said too much is being spent on the transit hub that serves between 40,000 and 50,000 commuters daily from New Jersey, and not enough for improving the decaying, 64-year-old Port Authority Bus Terminal, which serves five times more people.

"The proposed budget is really a reminder of the Port Authority's past mistakes," said New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat whose district sits next to the George Washington Bridge in northern New Jersey. "The budget you're voting on today approves capital expenditures at the bus terminal for $3 million for fixing public restrooms and $3 million for mitigating ceiling leaks for a facility that serves 250,000 commuters a day."

Executive Director Pat Foye said the agency expects to receive a comprehensive study in February that will include a plan for building a new terminal.