The latest news is what will probably happen to the three billion dollars the Port Authority was going to contribute to the project, $595 million of which was going to be spent next year. Andrew Grossman at the Wall Street Journal lists three projects that are at the top of the Authority's wish list: reconstruction of the Helix ramps leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, replacement of the cables holding up the George Washington Bridge, and a new bus garage at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. In case you suffer from transportation myopia, Ben at Second Avenue Sagas points out that only one of these projects is exclusively transit-related. As you may remember, most of the goals we have for transit (cleaner air, reducing carnage, less waste of energy) depend on getting people to shift from cars to transit. For that, in general, shifting money from transit to cars is bad.
I can't find an estimate anywhere for the cost of the Lincoln Tunnel helix or the George Washington Bridge cables, but on Page 16 of the Authority's 2008-2015 Strategic Plan, it says that the total cost for the new bus garage would be $500 million, of which $400 million was expected to come from the Port Authority. If that price hasn't gone up, that leaves $2.6 billion for the other two projects, and I can imagine that they'd be pretty expensive.
But what if the Port Authority were committed to using this money for transit? It turns out that in this Strategic Plan there are a number of other things on the wish list. Some are expansions of the transit system, some are equipment maintenance, and some are subsidies for transit-oriented development.
|Project||Estimated cost in millions of dollars|
|Expansion of the Lincoln Tunnel exclusive bus lane||800|
|Lengthen the Grove Street and Harrison stations on the PATH to ten cars||230|
|Signal replacement on the PATH||253|
|Transit-oriented development: Newark Airport station on Northeast Corridor line||155|
|Transit-oriented development: George Washington Bridge bus station||150|
|Transit-oriented development: Jamaica AirTrain Station||425|
|Transit-oriented development: Lower Manhattan-Kennedy Airport link right of way||350|
How about that? It comes out to a little over $2.6 billion. And according to DNAinfo's Julie Shapiro, the PATH signal replacement is funded from other revenue streams, which brings us under $3 billion total.
So here we have $3 billion in transit funds that is currently unallocated, and $3 billion in transit-related needs listed in the Strategic Plan. And yet, Executive Director Chris Ward completely disregards the Strategic Plan and picks two road-related projects that aren't even listed in it. What could that be about? Ward hints at it in the DNAinfo article: "Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo will work with Christie to decide what those projects will be, but Christie 'will take the lead,' Ward said." And there you have it: Christie overriding the Strategic Plan and diverting more than half the ARC Tunnel money to roads. I never thought I'd miss the days of Jon Corzine.