Port Authority considers 3 plans to replace midtown bus terminal

The Port Authority is seeking the public’s opinion on three proposed options to replace the aging midtown terminal.

Plans to replace the busiest bus terminal in the world are moving ahead.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday detailed three viable, final options to replace its aging Manhattan bus terminal in its midtown location. One option is to rebuild the terminal at its current site; a second would be to move the terminal to a converted lower level of the Javits Center, located just blocks away.

A third option would move intercity bus operations into the Javits basement, freeing up more space for New Jersey commuters in the current terminal, which would be renovated. The replacement is expected to be completed by 2030.

The options were detailed in a newly published “scoping document,” which will kick off a public outreach and environmental review process that will shape which project the Port Authority chooses.

“This is coming into a reality now. It’s a monumental moment,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole told the media after a board meeting Thursday.

The Port Authority will host four to-be-announced public hearings, two in each state, in July and September, though the public can also submit feedback online.

Built in 1950, about 260,000 commuters pass through the terminal each weekday. Despite a renovation in 1981, the space is universally loathed: it’s dark, dingy and difficult to navigate and not equipped to handle the projected growth of cross-Hudson commuters in the coming decades. The PA and outside planners expect demand at the terminal to increase by 30 percent, up to 337,000 weekday commuters, by 2040.

The document’s release represents the first significant step in the process to replace the terminal in months and draws from a design competition that the PA held in 2016. The PA secured $3 billion for the terminal in 2017, but the total cost likely will be much more. Previous estimates and proposals have pegged a new terminal to cost anywhere from $3.7 billion to more than $10 billion.

Politicians and officials from across the river have bickered over funding a new terminal and where exactly it should be placed. It was at one point suggested that the terminal move from its crowded midtown location to New Jersey, rankling elected officials across the river.

Rick Cotton, the executive director of the PA, said that projects were considered viable based on two key priorities: meeting the projected ridership demand while minimizing the need to obtain private property.

Under the build-in-place approach, the port would rebuild the terminal while “maintain[ing], to the greatest extent practicable” bus operations on site, according to the scoping document.

Moving into Javits completely would present design and construction challenges, including a “problematic” extension of the Lincoln Tunnel and the raising of the West Side Highway in the area.

And a partial move could be complicated as well, because it would be potentially difficult to meet requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, accommodate bigger buses or provide enough passenger waiting spaces at gates.

Cotton said the PA and its board would wait to be informed by public comments before shaping an opinion.

“The scoping document is a proposal. It’s a draft,” Cotton said. “The board of commissioners will act based on not only what has been proposed … but will also act on the basis of input.”

Vincent Barone