Outgoing Port Authority Chief: "I Was Burned By Politics"

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Chris Ward, head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

DNA Info's Julie Shapiro has the details of quite a speech outgoing Port Authority Chief Chris Ward gave in Lower Manhattan this morning.

"What I learned, as my hand got singed in the oven, was that you can't raise tolls anymore to what they would have to be to sustain the Port Authority," Ward said Wednesday morning at a Lower Manhattan Marketing Association breakfast.

The Port Authority Chairman is, by tradition, appointed by the New York Governor, in this case, Andrew Cuomo.  Cuomo took office in January 2011 -- Ward was already at the helm, having been appointed by the previous Governor, David Paterson.

It's been long suspected that Cuomo -- who is known to trust a relatively tight inner-circle of advisers -- would let Ward go after the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. (The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site, in addition to three area airports, several   Hudson River crossings, and the PATH commuter train to New Jersey.)

Despite his almost-on-the-outs status (or maybe because of it)  Ward pushed a toll hike on the Hudson River crossings this summer. Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, of New Jersey, ultimately accepted a hike, but a smaller one than Ward had initially pushed.  As a result, Ward said, he became, in the eyes of the public, the bad guy.

"I somewhat paid the political price of saying [the tolls] could have and should have been higher."

Ward himself believed that he would be asked to leave after the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. But Ward jumped before he could be pushed, letting word leak out of his imminent departure.  Ward himself hasn't said anything publicly, until, it would seem, today, when he warned that a decreased budget for the Port Authority would mean an ever worsening local transportation system.

"You're going to be stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge," Ward said. "You're going to be stuck on buses trying to get into the Port Authority Bus Terminal. You're going to be stuck at LaGuardia and JFK because [they] don't have enough runway capacity."

Cuomo has had a distant relationship with both his transit chiefs.  As Transportation Nation recently reported, Cuomo's schedules show no meetings with either Ward or Jay Walder, head of the MTA, during the first eight months of 2011.