Wednesday, May 29, 2013
By Kate Hinds
In an attempt to ward off flood damage for the upcoming hurricane season, the Port Authority is installing stackable metal flood barriers at PATH stations, stockpiling spare parts, pre-positioning pumps and generators, and getting thousands of sandbags in place.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(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.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(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.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
(New York, NY -- WNYC) Two consulting firms hired to conduct an independent review of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have concluded that the bi-state agency has experienced major improvement in how it is operating -- but still must find additional ways to raise revenue to pay for the region's aging transportation infrastructure.
Last year, in the midst of a public outcry over toll and fare hikes at the agency's bridges and tunnels, Navigant Consulting and Rothschild Inc were retained to take a detailed look at the Port Authority. The consultants reported that under the agency's watch the redevelopment costs for the World Trade Center had ballooned from $11 billion to $14.8 billion.
The initial outside review described a dysfunctional bureaucracy with a debt load that had more than doubled -- from $9 billion to $21 billion in just ten years -- while boosting the compensation pay for its employees by 19 percent over the same period.
Now, just seven months later, Port Authority chairman David Samson says a multi-faceted push to reform the agency has paid off with glowing reviews from the same consultants for the management team put in place by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Samson quoted from the latest Navigant report which concluded "the Port Authority has made great improvements in transparency and efforts to complete the World Trade Center program within the estimated costs." Samson said the agency had embarked on "50 distinct initiatives" to revamp everything from its basic governance structure to how the agency manages its capital projects.
The consultants also backed up the Port Authority's controversial toll and fare hikes as being "necessary" to support the agency's capital spending for its Interstate Transportation Network. That point is still hotly contested by local elected officials from both states and the Automobile Association of America. AAA has taken the Port Authority to court over what it claims is the illegal diversion of toll revenues to support non-transportation related projects like the World Trade Center.
And the same day that the Port Authority rolled out the consultant report on the agency's increased transparency, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis was expressing outrage over the agency's decision to appeal a judge's order requiring the Port Authority to turn over an internal report on the impact of its toll hikes on the New York Container Terminal on Staten Island. Malliotakis says the terminal, which provides 550 good-paying jobs, has already lost 58 percent of their business "mostly due to these toll hikes." "What makes this organization so unbelievable is their arrogance in that they feel they can hide this information from the public who partially paid for this study to take place," Mallitokis said. The agency maintains the report is just a draft.
On the conference call to announce the major reset at the Port Authority, executive director Pat Foye insisted the agency's efforts at cost containment had produced tangible results. According to Foye, requiring the agency's non-union staff to contribute to the cost of their health insurance will save the Port $41 million dollars over the next 18 months and tens of millions of dollars in the out years.
But Port Authority officials conceded they still face formidable fiscal challenges. "Our ambitious ten-year capital plan budgets $26.9 billion dollar in capital expenditures for the 2011-2020 planning period. But there is more than $44 billion dollars of known investments that we need to maintain our region's competitiveness," said Port Authority vice chairman Scott Rechler.
"The agency's 80-plus year-old faculties are at capacity and are in critical need of state of good repair work," Rechler said. "There is a significant backlog of projects due to past deferral of state of good repair expenditures. For more than eight years our tunnels, bridges and terminals departments have not met its 80 percent target of preventative maintenance routines which could lead to more costly emergency repairs down the road in the future."
"The region's airports have aged significantly, frequently ranking among the worst in the nation in terms of customer satisfaction, and upgrades will require up to $6.5 billion dollars in additional capital through 2020," Rechler added.
Foye says the Port Authority is going to look to the private sector to help it finance some of its big ticket items -- like the rebuilding of the Goethals Bridge, which links Staten Island and New Jersey. Foye says the public-private partnership model is being given "serious consideration" for upgrading the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia, as well as at Newark Airport's Terminal A. He says using this model could help the agency raise the $6 billion dollars needed to complete all three projects.
The consultants identified several areas where they felt the Port Authority could bring in as much as $150 million dollars in additional cash annually in non-toll revenue. On the list of possible money makers: additional advertising revenue, improving toll violation recovery, selling off some of the agency's real estate portfolio like the Newark Legal Center and the Teleport business park -- as well as selling air rights to the Port Authority's midtown bus terminal and its Journal Square PATH train station.
Port officials told reporters they are also looking to raise revenue by bringing new hotel capacity to the area around JFK Airport. "The JFK region doesn't have the hotel rooms adequate to service the millions of people who go through each day," Foye said. "We are working on two or three hotel opportunities right now that we expect to be announcing in the future."
New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a long time Port Authority critic, credited the Port Authority with "responding to years of inadequate accounting and managerial procedures" but hoped "the newfound commitment to proper governance" would endure.
“My greatest concern is that once the agency no longer feels public pressure to reform, it will return to its old ways," Huttle said in a statement. She's still pushing for passage of the Port Authority Accountability and Transparency Act, which legislators say would increase the Port's public accountability and require an annual audit.
Any legislation to reform the agency has to be passed in both Albany and Trenton. The Port Authority, a bi-state compact, was created by an act of Congress in 1921.
Monday, May 21, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
Air passengers will also soon encounter what the Port Authority is calling the first use of avatar technology at North American airports: holograms in the form of customer service representatives.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
(New York, NY -- Tracey Samuelson, WNYC) The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey doesn’t want Megabus to be able to pick up passengers on the sidewalk outside the West-side bus terminal, New York City's main bus station.
The city’s Department of Transportation gave the discount carrier – known for occasional $1 fares – a three-month trial permit to operate on West 41st Street outside the terminal, which expires in early May.
“It’s a danger to people trying crossing that street, whether they’re trying to access Megabus or not,” said Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, while speaking at a Crain's New York Business forum Tuesday morning. “We're going to take a vigorous position that that pilot program not be renewed and that Megabus and other operators be moved someplace else.”
A coalition of bus operators including Greyhound Lines, Peter Pan Bus Lines and Adirondack Trailways has already made a similar request of the DOT, arguing it's unfair that they have to pay for the right to operate out of the bus terminal when Megabus can park outside for free.
City DOT spokesman Scott Gastel offered little indication of whtat the city will do. "We continue to inspect the Megabus site, and will consult with both Community Board 4 and the Port Authority next month as the 90-day period ends, taking all feedback into account as we make our evaluation," Gastel said.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
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.
Friday, February 24, 2012
The head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to use the agency's clout as landlord to get more dock workers of color hired.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Nancy Shevell, wife of Paul McCartney, announced on Wednesday that she will step down from her post on MTA board.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
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.)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
House Republicans will unveil a five-year transportation bill today. (Link)
The Dulles Airport Metrorail link plan got another step closer to reality. (Link)
A Wyoming highway lowers its speed limit to help wildlife. (Link)
The new head of the Port Authority (Pat Foye) says the agency can help pull the region out of its financial doldrums -- a role he says it played during the Depression. (The Star-Ledger)
Meanwhile, NJ Governor Christie continues to blast the agency's previous head, Chris Ward, calling his leadership of the agency "awful." (The Record)
NY Daily News editorial: NYC's taxi dispatch plan for wheelchair users, which comes five days before a court hearing, is too little too late.
The head of the TSA has backed off a commitment to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used in airports. (Pro Publica)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of reforms to keep state highway construction projects on time and on budget. (Democrat & Chronicle)
The federal government and Minnesota officials agree that if high-speed rail comes to that state, its route will run along the Mississippi. (Winona Daily News)
Is a road use fee -- like vehicle miles traveled -- too "creepy" to work? (Atlantic Cities)
Planners say Sao Paolo, Brazil, needs a major infrastructure makeover -- including razing the Minhocao, an elevated highway known as the "Big Worm. (NPR)
A bus accident in China killed 18 children, prompting anger toward the government and renewing concerns about safety. (NPR)
Gas prices are up. (Marketplace)