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Transportation Nation

Port Authority Might Gobble Up Atlantic City International Airport

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Atlantic City International Airport

(New York, NY - WNYC) Atlantic City International Airport sits in Egg Harbor Township, about 125 miles south of Times Square. That's far outside the traditional realm of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which covers New York City and northern New Jersey. But authority spokesmen say the South Jersey airport is underachieving and needs their help. That might also be a way of saying they're preparing to buy it.

The authority announced on Wednesday that it will spend up to $3 million to study the idea of adding the 84-acre airport to its portfolio, which includes JFK, LaGuardia, Newark-Liberty, Stewart International and Teterboro Airports.

Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni said his staff is negotiating with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which runs the airport, over an agreement that would allow the NY-NJ Port Authority to assume part of the airport's operations. He said the arrangement would probably start in July.

"The Port Authority may have the opportunity, if it chooses, to have the option to purchase," he said.

Baroni wouldn't comment on how long the study would take or how much the authority might pay for the facility. He said Atlantic City International's ten gates handle 27 flights a day, but could serve 300 flights a day. The airport's only primary carrier is Florida-based Spirit Airlines.

Baroni said luring passengers to Atlantic City International could relieve some of the over-crowding at Newark-Liberty Airport. The authority also wants to attract South Jersey travelers who fly out of Philadelphia.

The announcement came on the same day that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched an initiative to revitalize Atlantic City, which includes plans to beef up police patrols in the tourist district and install "dramatic lighting" on the boardwalk.

Millions of people take buses to the city's casinos but gaming industry experts say the big money comes from gamblers who stay overnight. More regularly scheduled flights to Atlantic City International Airport might draw more of those gamblers. Authority chairman James Sampson said that, as of now, only 1 percent the airport's 1.4 million yearly passengers are on their way to and from the local casinos.

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Transportation Nation

Port Authority Denies Sandy Damage Will Delay Completion Of World Trade Center Transpo Hub

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Part of the transportation hub under construction at The World Trade Center. (photo courtesy of NY-NJ Port Authority)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Pulses were sent racing today when it was apparently revealed that the World Trade Center transportation hub, already years behind schedule, had suffered another setback because of Sandy.

Cheryl McKissack Daniel, a consultant for the $3.8 billion project, told the New York Times that water damage had significantly pushed back the hub's completion date of 2015.

"And now, after Sandy, that added another year and a half to the whole project," she said. "Everything was flooded — everything was new and flooded. And all of that had to be replaced because it’s all electrical work."

Not so, say spokesmen for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Tishman Construction Corporation, which has a major hand in building the hub. It was designed by star architect Santiago Calatrava.

"The anticipated completion date for the World Trade Center transportation hub remains 2015," said the Port Authority's Anthony Hayes. Tishman spokesman Brendan Ranson-Walsh echoed the sentiment in an emailed statement:

"Ms. McKissack Daniel incorrectly informed The NY Times about the completion date of the WTC Transportation Hub. Per the Port Authority of NY and NJ, which is overseeing the project, the anticipated completion date of the Hub is 2015. No change in date has been announced by the Port Authority."

Hayes said further that no part of construction at the World Trade Center has been delayed by Sandy, even though the site was inundated with millions of gallons of water. "There has been no impact because of Sandy in terms of completion times at the World Trade Center," he said.

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Transportation Nation

Officials: As Construction Site, World Trade Center Vulnerable To Floods

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

One World Trade Center with 9/11 in the foreground. (photo by melfoody / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) A Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official says a built-out World Trade Center site will be less vulnerable to future storms like Sandy once construction is done by 2020. But the authority hasn't decided what to do in the meantime to protect the site from rising tides.

Construction sites that include open pits, as does the 16-acre World Trade Center site, are vulnerable to flooding. And much of the site is built on landfill where the Hudson River once flowed--and would flow again if not for retaining walls.

But Port Authority executive director Pat Foye wouldn't elaborate on what steps could be taken to protect the site from flooding while under construction, and harden the site once construction is done in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.

"Port Authority people and outside experts are looking at how to make the site more resilient," Foye said. He wouldn't give details about possible mitigation efforts beyond saying, "The review continues."

Foye estimated it will cost $2 billion to repair storm damage to the World Trade Center, along with the rest of the authority's facilities, including airports, bridges and tunnels. Foye said $800 million alone is needed to fix the PATH train system, which only recently returned some of its lines to a pre-Sandy schedule.

Foye said insurance reimbursements and FEMA payments should cover those costs."There will be no material impact on the budget," he said.

Still under construction in Lower Manhattan is One World Trade Center, which carries a price tag of $3.8 billion, making it the world's most expensive new office tower. To offset the costs of the 1,776-foot skyscraper, the authority last year levied higher bridge and tunnel tolls and reduced spending on transportation infrastructure.

One World Trade Center is scheduled to be done by early next year. But some part of the larger World Trade Center site will be under construction, and vulnerable to flooding, for at least the next eight years.

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Transportation Nation

A Latina Journalist, a Former Clinton Official, and a Big Political Donor Join Port Authority Board

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The George Washington Bridge is one of six bridges and tunnels operated by the NY-NJ Port Authority. (Photo by Phil Davis NY / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC)   NY Governor Cuomo lets no appointment go unmined for good political effect.  This round of appointments to the Port Authority Board is no exception: Cuomo has named a prominent Latina journalist, a  real estate developer (and big political fundraiser), and a former top Clinton administration official to the Port Authority board.

The three appointees are El Diario/La Prensa Publisher Rossana Rosado, former state department spokesman and Bloomberg View editor James Rubin and real estate mogul -- and big-time political donor -- Scott Rechler.

Rechler has been serving on the board for the past year as vice chairman; his term will expire July 2018. Rosado and Rubin will take their seats immediately. Rosado's term ends July 2014, Rubin's term ends July 2017.

Rechler is the CEO and Chairman of RXR Realty, which owns and operates office buildings in the New York area, including some fancy addresses in Manhattan, and is worth about $4.5 billion.  NYPIRG named him one of the biggest political donors in the state. He gave $55,000 to Cuomo's campaign, the group said. In 2008, he raised some $140,000 for the Obama campaign, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The NY-NJ Port Authority's facilities include America's busiest airport system, marine terminals and ports, the PATH rail transit system, six tunnels and bridges between New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and the World Trade Center. Last year, the authority moved 104 million airport customers, 74 million PATH train riders and saw 121 million vehicles cross its bridges and tunnels. The port handled 5.2 million cargo container units.

The commissioners vote on how to allocate billions in public funds to major transportation projects.

In the past Cuomo has appointed former Bronx Borough President (and current lobbyist)  Fernando Ferrer to the MTA Board, and big developer/donor Howard Milstein to head the New York State Thruway.

 

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Transportation Nation

Freaky Info-Spewing Avatars Coming To NYC Area Airports

Monday, May 21, 2012

(New York, NY - WNYC) The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is beefing up customer service at area airports — and getting some James Cameron-style help in the form of avatars.

The avatar is a life-sized flat screen in the shape of a woman who activates when a customer approaches. In a perky, smirky, sexy voice, she dispenses flight information and tips about airport services like the location of shuttle buses, rest rooms and taxis. She gives the same spiel to every customer.

Human version of an airport customer service rep on left, avatar on right. (Photo by Jim O'Grady / WNYC)

Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye unveiled one of the computerized avatars at a press conference at LaGuardia Airport Monday morning. He said the machines are meant to supplement the airport's 350 flesh-and-blood customer representatives, who will soon be joined by 70 new hires.

A total of five avatars are scheduled for installation at LaGuardia, JFK and Liberty Newark airports in early July. Unlike most humans, they won't be interactive. But Foye said he hopes a future iteration of the talking machines will hold conversations with passengers.

That didn't stop the demonstration avatar from extolling her advantages over human employees: "I never take a break, don't charge overtime, hardly ever take sick leave and I don't need a background check." Later, she smiled suggestively and said, "I can...be just about anything you want me to be."

(In the video above that's PA Chief Pat Foye, with white beard and glasses, in the background around the 35-second mark.)

The Authority also unveiled new airport apps and dozens of information kiosks and electronic device charging stations to help travelers.

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Transportation Nation

Security Shake-Up Planned For Port Authority Of NY-NJ

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Former chief of U.S. Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announces security changes at the NY-NJ Port Athority with PA Executive Director Foye (right). (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The Port Authority of NY & NJ, which owns the World Trade Center,  announced Thursday that it is overhauling its security operations. The changes will start with the hiring of a Chief Security Officer.

The position is a new one. Former chief of U.S. Homeland Security Michael Chertoff recommended the creation of the job after reviewing security at the authority and finding no one person in charge. "I was surprised by the lack centralized accountability," he said at a press conference held at NY-NJ Port Authority headquarters in Manhattan.

He also said security arrangements across the authority's many departments "lack coordination" and that "decisions are made by managers at individual facilities."

A NY-NJ Port Authority press release added that Chertoff, whose security firm was hired to conduct a review, found "the absence of a clear sense of mission and inadequate lines of responsibility and operational control over the organization."

Chertoff stressed the security upgrade comes "not because of a crisis" but because "historically, the Port Authority has been the target of plots."

Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, said a national search for a chief security officer would begin immediately.

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Transportation Nation

NY & NJ Port Authority Chief Expects Transpo Building Push Once World Trade Center Is Done

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Patrick Foye, head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (image courtesy of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s new executive director said he’s been thinking about the “peace dividend” he expects once 1 World Trade Center is completed in 2013 – when the authority will be able to turn its energies toward “tens of billions” in overdue transportation infrastructure overhauls.

Pat Foye delivered the keynote speech for a conference about globalization and the New York State economy. The event was held in Manhattan at the SUNY Levin Institute, which is named after Neil Levin, the former Port Authority chief executive who died at the World Trade Center on September 11.

Anticipating a building push, Foye criticized the environmental review process that big building projects must pass through in the New York City region. “There’s no field of human endeavor that benefits from a 10-year study," he said. “We can do this quicker and cheaper and have greater certainty in the process.”

Foye sat down for a Q & A after speaking at the conference.

What did you mean by the “World Trade Center peace dividend?”

1 World Trade Center is 50 percent leased, which is terrific. The building is on track to be finished at the end of 2013. It’ll be open to tenants in the first quarter of 2014. The Port Authority has commitments it made to the World Trade Center site and to Downtown Manhattan in general. Once those commitments have been met, the Port Authority will be able to take funds and increasingly focus them on airports and ports and the PATH train and bridges and tunnels—the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, the Staten Island bridges—all the incredibly important infrastructure that help drive the economy of the region.

We’ll be refocusing on the Port Authority’s core mission, which is critical transportation infrastructure that serves both states. That’s what the future looks like.

Your predecessor, Chris Ward, said the recent toll and fare hikes were not enough to do what the Port Authority needs to do while finishing the World Trade Center. Are you facing hard choices about delaying or canceling critical infrastructure projects?

Life’s about hard choices, whether you’re sitting at your kitchen table with your spouse or whether you’re in business or a big governmental entity like the MTA or the Port Authority.

I’m probably the wrong guy to ask because I’m an MTA board member and, a year ago, I voted against the MTA fare increase because I thought voting against it was the right thing to do.

But I think the toll increase was the right thing to do for the Port Authority at the time. I personally would not be advocating—and I’m not advocating—for higher toll levels now. I think that given the economy, that would not be an appropriate thing to do. And I know it’s not something that either Governor Christie or Governor Cuomo would support. It’s something the Board of Commissioners would not support.

So I think the toll and fare increase, which was a painful decision made in August, was at the right level.

How would you streamline the environmental review process for large building projects? Would you have less reviews, tighter deadlines?

Look, everybody is committed to environmental protection. I’ve got three daughters. I care a lot about the water I drink, my wife drinks, my neighbors drink. I feel the same way about the air we breathe and chemicals in the soil. That’s a given.

The question is, with unmet transportation needs in the hundreds of billions and unemployment as high as it is, isn’t there a way to shorten the process without compromising the environment?

I believe there is. I think President Obama, a president with a terrific environmental record, led the way on the Tappan Zee Bridge when he gave Governor Cuomo a waiver of the NEPA process. It’s one of only 14 projects in the country to get that waiver.

[NOTE: The Tappan Zee Bridge connects New York’s Rockland and Westchester Counties, accommodates 135,000 vehicles each weekday and is in constant need of repairs. An expedited federal review is supposed to speed construction of a replacement bridge by coordinating the permitting process.]

How does the state’s new infrastructure bank work and how will it affect the Port Authority?

The state and region’s transportation infrastructure needs can be measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. State and government budgets everywhere are under pressure. Taxpayers have reached the limit of their ability to give more.

The infrastructure bank is designed to come up with menu of projects: the Tappan Zee Bridge, perhaps the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport, which is a Port Authority asset, perhaps the MTA’s East Side Access and Second Avenue Subway projects.

The bank would then combine the state and Port Authority together with sources of private capital: public unions, private pension plans, corporate pension plans, institutional investors. The state would not pay a fee but would co-invest, if you will.

Why is it needed?

We have an economic crisis. And I think people have generally have lost some confidence in the ability of Washington to address these concerns. We need to do something and we need to do it now.

The state has the projects and the expertise but doesn’t have the ability to borrow at those levels.

The governor has been very public about the importance of fixing the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is an incredibly important asset for the entire region. The state infrastructure fund will be looking at the Tappan Zee as among the first projects that it considers.

Is it like bonds in that investors can expect a set rate of return?

The infrastructure fund will afford investors the opportunity to invest in debt, perhaps subordinated debt, preferred equity, common equity or a common equity equivalent.

Every project is different. It’s got its own history, its own needs from a financing point of view. One of the advantages of the Tappan Zee Bridge, for instance, is it has a whole history of toll collection, and that can be plotted. That gives comfort and assurance to investors.

Projects with toll or fare revenue, that will help the financing get done.

(Some of the answers in this interview have been condensed.)

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Transportation Nation

Patrick Foye Named New Executive Director of NY-NJ Port Authority

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Patrick Foye (photo courtesy of the NY MTA)

(New York, NY) Chris Ward’s three-and-a-half year tenure as executive director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come to an end. Patrick Foye, an aide to Governor Cuomo and a and former state economic development chief, is in.

Ward, 56, was appointed in 2008 by former New York Governor David A. Paterson. He will now be replaced by Patrick Foye, deputy secretary for economic development for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo announced the appointment in a press release today: "The Port Authority must meet its potential as a major economic engine that plans for the region and attracts business on an international scale. We must also improve its operations and maximize the value out of every dollar spent so that it is financially responsible and respects the tax and toll payers."

Cuomo also said he would propose rolling the Moynihan Station Development Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation into the Port Authority. The move was immediately endorsed by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who has been an advocate of a redeveloped Moynihan Station.

Foye’s most recent job before that was deputy county executive for economic development for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Foye left that job in January after Mangano decided, against Foye’s advice, to sue a state-appointed control board to prevent it from taking over the county’s finances. The county lost the lawsuit.

Foye, a lawyer who worked with Skadden Arps, is a former downstate chairman for New York’s Empire State Development Corporation. Since May 2010, he has sat on the board of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Unlike the other transportation post Cuomo has to fill -- head of the New York MTA -- Foye's appointment does not require approval of the New York State Senate.

In an interview, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Foye has been active in his role as the appointee from Nassau County in Long Island. “He’s delved into operating details of the system, communication issues with commuters and fare structure,” Pally said.

In a statement, Foye said "I am honored to be recommended for Executive Director of the Port Authority. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we have begun to re-energize New York's economy and pave the way for job growth in the state. I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity and look forward to working closely with him and the Board of Directors at the Port Authority on maintaining and improving the New York metropolitan region's vital transportation, infrastructure and economic development assets".

By many accounts, Cuomo and Ward never forged a close working relationship. For example, Cuomo’s schedules show no meetings with the Port Authority executive director during the first eight months of 2011. By contrast Foye, as one of the governor’s deputy secretaries, attended three meetings and a staff reception with Cuomo in the past six months.

Ward’s time leading the authority was marked by controversy and achievement: controversy over recent toll and fare increases on Hudson River crossings; achievement, primarily, for cutting through political and legal disputes to ramp up construction at the stalled World Trade Center site.

In particular, Ward sped up the building of the 9/11 memorial to insure its completion in time for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. He also helped convince publisher Condé Nast to sign on as a major tenant at 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as The Freedom Tower.

Ward said renaming the anchor skyscraper was crucial to lightening the site’s symbolic weight to focus on more mundane concerns, like construction deadlines. “We were free before 9/11, we were free after 9/11,” he told the New York Times. “New Yorkers don’t need a tower named ‘freedom.’ New Yorkers need to know that we built it, that there’s a place to go and work.”

Ward was less successful in navigating the sharp shoals of toll and fare increases.

He initially proposed to raise toll rates on cash-paying drivers to as much as $15 during peak times, up from $8. He also wanted to hike the PATH commuter train fare by a dollar. What he got—after weeks of criticism from the governors of New York and New Jersey and excoriation from some of the public—was far less. On tolls, he got a $1.50 increase on most drivers beginning last month, and then 75 cents each year for the next four years. On PATH, he got an increase of 25 cents a year for four years.

Ward contended the hikes were necessary to fund the authority’s $33 billion 10-year capital plan, $11 billion rebuilding of the World Trade Center and $6 billion price tag for increased security since the September 11 attacks. Losing that fight left him feeling, in his own words, “burned."

The lower toll hikes means Foye will most likely have to consider cutting some projects from the authority’s capital plan. And that, in the words of the outgoing executive director, will mean: “You’re going to be stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. 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.”

In the 1990's, Foye, working closely with former U.S.  Senator Alfonse D'Amato, helped put together the takeover of the Long Island Lighting Company, or LILCO, by the Long Island Power Authority.  LILCO had acquired a huge debt constructing the Shoreham nuclear power plant, which was never opened do to safety concerns.

At the time, the deal involved the biggest issuance of municipal bonds in history.

Cuomo also announced the nominations of two new board members to the Port Authority:  James Rubin, a Clinton Assistant Secretary of State, who worked until recently as the executive editor of Bloomberg View, and Rosanna Rosado, the publisher and CEO of El Diario La Prensa.

 

Chris Ward’s three and a half year tenure as executive director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come to an end. He announced his resignation today, saying “TK.”

Ward, 56, was appointed in 2008 by former New York Gov. David A. Paterson. He will now be replaced by Pat Foye, deputy secretary for Economic Development for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Foye’s most recent job before that was deputy county executive for economic development for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Foye left that job in January after Mangano decided, against Foye’s advice, to sue a state-appointed control board to prevent it from taking over the county’s finances. The county lost the lawsuit.

Foye, a lawyer, is a former downstate chairman for New York’s Empire State Development Corporation. Since May 2010, he has sat on the board of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an interview, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Foye has been active in his role as the appointee from Nassau County in Long Island. “He’s delved into operating details of the system, communication issues with commuters and fare structure,” Pally said.

In a statement, Foye said, “TK.”

By many accounts, Cuomo and Ward never forged a close working relationship. For example, Cuomo’s schedules show no meetings with the chairman of the NY-NJ Port  Authority during the first eight months of 2011. By contrast Foye, as one of the Governor’s deputy secretaries, attended three meetings and a staff reception with Cuomo in the past six months.

Ward’s time leading the authority was marked by controversy and achievement: controversy over recent toll and fare increases on Hudson River crossings; achievement, primarily, for cutting through political and legal disputes to ramp up construction at the stalled World Trade Center site.

In particular, Ward sped up the building of the 9/11 memorial to insure its completion in time for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. He also helped convince publisher Condé Nast to sign on as a major tenant at 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as The Freedom Tower.

Ward said renaming the anchor skyscraper was crucial to lightening the site’s symbolic weight to focus on more mundane concerns, like construction deadlines. “We were free before 9/11, we were free after 9/11,” he told The New York Times. “New Yorkers don’t need a tower named ‘freedom.’ New Yorkers need to know that we built it, that there’s a place to go and work.”

Ward was less successful in navigating the sharp shoals of toll and fare increases.

He initially proposed to raise toll rates on cash-paying drivers to as much as $15 during peak times, up from $8. He also wanted to hike the PATH commuter train fare by a dollar. What he got—after weeks of criticism from the governors of New York and New Jersey and excoriation from some of the public—was far less. On tolls, he got a $1.50 increase on most drivers beginning last month, and then 75 cents each year for the next four years. On PATH, he got an increase of 25 cents a year for four years.

Ward contended the hikes were necessary to fund the authority’s $33 billion 10-year capital plan, $11 billion rebuilding of the World Trade Center and $6 billion price tag for increased security since the September 11 attacks. Losing that fight left him feeling, in his own words, “burned."

The lower toll hikes means Foye will most likely have to consider cutting some projects from the authority’s capital plan. And that, in the words of the outgoing chairman, will mean: “You’re going to be stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. 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.”

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Transportation Nation

NY-NJ Port Authority's Proposed Toll and Fare Hikes: Behind the Numbers

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

1 World Trade Center, a Port Authority project, under construction. (Photo by wallyg / flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Three big numbers are at the heart of the hefty toll and fare hikes proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:

  • $33 billion for a 10-year capital plan.
  • $11 billion to rebuild the World Trade Center.
  • $6 billion for increased security since the September 11 attacks.

And they all have one thing in common: they pay for construction jobs. That explains why unionized plumbers, carpenters and iron-workers packed a public hearing Tuesday at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to speak in favor of the hikes.

Chris Colombia, a union contractor, said the extra money collected would pay for 185,000 jobs — that's more than the 167,000 jobs the authority claims will be created. But the point, repeated by more than a dozen union members, was the same: "priming the pump" of the local construction industry will be good for the economy.

Predictably, drivers saw the issue differently.

"I understand the need for jobs but let me tell you something," said driver Jason Ertell. "The Port Authority facilitates commerce across the river between these two states — trillions of dollars in every sort of business and every sector that you can imagine in this economy."

Toll and fare hikes, he went on, raises the cost of doing business in New York and New Jersey and that kills jobs.

Both Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie professed initial shock at the notion of non-EZ Pass drivers paying as much as $15 for a round-trip during peak hours and PATH riders absorbing a $1 increase to their fare.

Still, Cuomo said, he understood the Port needed money, and that he would huddle with his appointees on the board to review the proposal.

“The knee-jerk response of, ‘The government needs more money, go to the taxpayer, put your hand in the taxpayers' pocket, take out more money and fund it,'" Cuomo said. "That doesn’t work for me."

But he has not ruled out the hikes. The Port Authority estimates they'd raise $720 million a year and an additional $290 million a year after 2014, when tolls would rise again.

Port Authority executive director Chris Ward has issued a statement that seems aimed at convincing both governors to approve the full increases.

"We recognize that the propose increase is substantial," the statement said. "But it is also absolutely necessary to ensure the financial strength of the Port Authority and to maintain and grow the critical transportation infrastructure that serves the bi-state region."

A similar rationale was given in prefatory remarks by the Port Authority employee overseeing Tuesday morning's public hearing at the bus terminal.

But it didn't convince driver Andrew Holloway, who began his testimony this way: "Hi, ladies and gentlemen. I think we all know somewhere that this proposed increase is insane."

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Transportation Nation

Opinion Split At Public Hearing On Steep NY-NJ Port Authority Toll And Fare Hikes

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

(Photo by meh8335 / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The public is having its say today about steep toll and fare hikes proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. At a public hearing this morning held at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street in Manhattan, drivers and PATH Train riders passionately panned the looming increases. But trade unionists, which stand to benefit if more money goes towards the agency's capital projects, approved of increasing revenues through hikes.

Jason Ertrell is a lawyer who drives over the George Washington Bridge every day from Clifton, NJ, to Midtown. He showed up at the hearing, signed in and took the podium to say he's not happy with what he gets for what he pays. "What I don't understand is how every morning as I drive down to pay my eight dollars, my fillings are getting rattled out and the shocks to my car are getting beat to hell--beat to heck, excuse me."

The NY-NJ Port Authority wants to raise those tolls even higher--up to $12 for EZ Pass users, and up to $15 for drivers who pay cash during peak periods. PATH Train riders would see the base price of a trip increased from $1.75 to $2.75.

But most of the 100 people at the hearing, like laborer Ramon Woodcock, were pro-hike construction workers. "The rebuilding of the World Trade Center is currently a priority and must remain so," said Woodcock. "It is a matter of American pride."

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center is a NY-NJ Port Authority project. Its current price tag is $11 billion.

Governors Cuomo and Christie, who control appointments to the authority's Board of Commissioners, initially balked at the hikes. It's now widely assumed that they're talking to the NY-NJ Port Authority about lowering them. (The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the hikes on Friday.) Those negotiations could be heating up: yesterday Port Authority executive director Chris Ward issued a strongly-worded statement defended the increases it has asked for.

"We recognize that the proposed increase is substantial," the statement said. "But it is also absolutely necessary to ensure the financial strength of the Port Authority and to maintain and grow the critical transportation infrastructure that serves the bi-state region."

A similar rationale was given in prefatory remarks by the NY-NJ Port Authority employee overseeing this morning's public hearing at the bus terminal. It didn't convince driver Andrew Holloway, who began his testimony this way: "Hi, ladies and gentlemen. I think we all know somewhere that this proposed increase is insane."

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