New Jersey lawmakers want more money for NYC bus terminal

The unveiling of a new, $32 billion capital spending plan by the New York region's largest transportation agency after a year of negotiating didn't tamp down criticism Thursday by New Jersey legislators who say the plan doesn't allocate enough for a desperately needed bus terminal in midtown Manhattan.

The much-anticipated capital plan replaces an earlier 10-year plan that was finalized in 2014 and didn't include money to replace the decaying, 6-decade-old Port Authority Bus Terminal that even Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials have called "appalling" and "functionally obsolete."

That raised a hue and cry from lawmakers west of the Hudson River, a region that sends roughly 115,000 commuters into Manhattan each day by bus. That number is expected to grow to 165,000 by 2040, according to a recent study. Studies also have concluded the concrete slabs the buses traverse as they ascend ramps into the terminal will have to be replaced in the next 20 years to avoid failure.

The plan approved Thursday allocates $3.5 billion to a new bus terminal, a little less than half a projected price tag of $7 billion. Port Authority Chairman John Degnan conceded that will not get a new terminal built in 10 years, but he expressed hope that its completion would be envisioned in the next 10-year plan.

New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski called the move "a step in the right direction, but it's not enough." Wisniewski found an ally in Port Authority commissioner Kenneth Lipper, a New York appointee to the bistate board who on Thursday renewed his call for money slated for new air trains to Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports to be diverted to the bus terminal project. The rail projects would serve barely 10,000 people per day, Lipper said, at a combined cost of roughly $4 billion.

In addition to the bus terminal and air train projects, the capital plan envisions $2.3 billion to redevelop Newark Liberty International Airport's Terminal A and about $1 billion toward a $10 billion redevelopment of Kennedy Airport announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week. Executive Director Patrick Foye said the rest of the JFK project will be funded by private capital and state transportation money.

About $8.8 billion is earmarked for maintaining existing facilities in a state of good repair; $2 billion to complete post-Superstorm Sandy restoration projects and $7.6 billion to complete projects in progress such as the Bayonne Bridge elevation and the installation of Positive Train Control on the PATH rail system.

Roughly $2.7 billion is slated for debt service on the Gateway project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, currently in the midst of the environmental permitting process.

Separately, the Port Authority board on Thursday approved a lease for Delta Airlines at LaGuardia Airport through 2050, part of a deal in which Delta is paying for about $3.6 billion of a $4 billion redevelopment of the airport terminals. The Port Authority has committed about $600 million.