Port Authority Bus Terminal: Officials disagree over renovation funding

“Let me be blunt, I think Gov. Cuomo has it all wrong,” Degnan said.

The Port Authority’s chairman lashed out at Governor Andrew Cuomo after Thursday’s board meeting over the planned funding to replace the agency’s obsolete bus terminal.

After months of bitter squabbling between New Jersey and New York, both governors had agreed on securing $3.5 billion in a draft of the agency’s 10-year capital plan for a new terminal on Manhattan’s west side.

New Jersey would pony up $2 billion, while the other $1 billion would come from New York. It’s a 70 percent to 30 percent proportion that roughly reflects the ridership of the current terminal, according to the agency. The other $500 million for the project must be raised through a federal grant.

But Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, a New Jersey appointee, took the time to deride that funding mechanism, pushed by Cuomo, he said. Degnan asserted that past mega projects were not funded through strict apportioning and he disagreed with doing so on principle.

“Let me be blunt, I think Gov. Cuomo has it all wrong,” Degnan said. “Apparently this somehow needs to be apportioned between the two states. This is fundamentally at odds with Port Authority ought to be about.”

Degnan referred to Cuomo’s interests in securing funding for airport rehabilitation projects and said Cuomo’s reasoning is “an unnecessary intrusion of political objectives on what ought to be the regional goals of the most important regional planning and construction agency in the country.”

Despite the pointed words, Executive Director Pat Foye, a Cuomo appointee, said the agency made some progress toward rebuilding the loathed, 66-year-old bus terminal, which, already overcapacity, is unable to meet rapidly growing ridership demands.

The governors had at least come to terms on funding. That, though, after the project has torn at the fabric of the agency. Vice Chairman Steve Coleman, a Cuomo appointee, resigned abruptly last month over the terminal tug-of-war.

The introduction of the new capital plan draft, which would lay out $29 billion in spending for the agency between 2017 and 2026, was a symbol of compromise, Foye said.

“This capital plan provides parity between the states and derails Chairman Degnan’s political agenda,” said Foye in a statement.

Still, the Port Authority board of commissioners postponed a vote Thursday that would have approved the draft of the capital plan. The approval would have forwarded the plan to the public review process.

Commissioners cited concerns over the plan’s allocations of funds for the delay. They agreed to meet again in a special session before February to discuss the plan.

“There is a sense of urgency on the part of the board to move this along,” said Degnan. “I can’t remember the last time the board has scheduled a special meeting off its calendar to address an issue.”

It still remains unclear when commuters will get their new bus terminal. Foye and Degnan would not commit to the terminal’s completion within the next decade.

Project cost estimates have varied wildly, sometimes pegged to cost more than $10 billion. Degnan said settling on $3.5 billion in the capital plan ensures that the terminal wouldn’t divert funds from other necessary projects.

Vincent Barone