Bridge and Tunnel Tolls, PATH Fares Unchanged Under $4.5 Billion Plan; Board Also Institutes New 10-Year Planning Process
The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today approved a $4.5 billion 2005 budget that upgrades services and security at its airports, bridges, tunnels, seaports and rail system. The budget includes capital funds for the start of construction on a dramatic new project at the World Trade Center site and the purchase of new PATH rail cars while holding the line on spending. The budget – adopted on time for the second consecutive year – calls for no toll or fare increases at Port Authority facilities in 2005.
In a related budget issue, the Board received from Port Authority staff a 10-year strategic plan. The plan serves as a general framework for the agency as it seeks to deal with the region’s changing economic needs in the 21st century. It includes projects that may be developed, carefully evaluated with other agencies in the region and with the governors of New York and New Jersey, and incorporated into future budgets when appropriate. Funding sources have not been identified for long-range projects in the plan, and the Board will review it annually.
In its 2005 budget, the Port Authority has seen its costs for security rise dramatically since September 11, 2001. In 2005, security costs will increase to $355 million, up $27 million over the previous year. The costs of employee benefits and utilities also have grown, and the 2005 budget reflects higher airport lease payments. Despite these increased costs, the agency has developed a budget that holds the line on spending.
In order to develop a budget that minimizes growth in spending, the Port Authority formed a team of agency employees to explore ways to streamline operations and save money. This initiative, which is ongoing, already has identified a number of opportunities for improvement that will result in approximately $26 million in savings in 2005, achieved in part through consolidation of certain business functions, allowing seasonal maintenance staff to be deployed where needed and a reduction in supplemental staff.
New York Governor George E. Pataki said, “This Port Authority budget continues to make investments that are critical to economic growth in the region and to sustain the rebuilding effort in Lower Manhattan. It will allow us to break ground on a spectacular transportation hub at the World Trade Center site, while continuing to invest in John F. Kennedy International Airport through the construction of a new terminal for the airport’s busiest airline, JetBlue Airways.”
Acting New Jersey Governor Richard J. Codey said, “We are extremely pleased that the Port Authority will invest millions of dollars in trade and transportation infrastructure that will make it more convenient for our residents to get to work, to recreational destinations or to visit family and friends. Funds are provided in this budget for the purchase of new PATH rail cars and to upgrade the historic ferry slips at Hoboken terminal.”
Port Authority Chairman Anthony R. Coscia said, “Our unique strategic planning initiative presents a visionary, forward-thinking program that will allow the agency to begin planning for its long-term transportation and economic development needs. It presents a vision of bold changes in planning and financial relationships with public and private partners, and suggests a general strategic framework for the bistate agency. We strongly believe it will allow the agency to continue its 80-year legacy of visionary planning for decades to come.”
Port Authority Vice Chairman Charles A. Gargano said, “This budget delivers on our pledge to build a stronger New York-New Jersey region by creating a better regional transportation system that attracts new business and jobs. It continues major investments at JFK and provides funds critical to the restoration of the World Trade Center site and to the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. Our spending plan is vital to the long-term future of the region’s economy.”
Port Authority Executive Director Kenneth J. Ringler Jr. said, “Activity levels at our tunnels and bridges are exceeding numbers we saw prior to September 11, 2001, for the first time. While this represents a positive trend, it will not offset the increases we have seen in security and other operating costs. During the upcoming year, we will continue to identify reductions in other areas of Port Authority spending that will cause the least inconvenience to customers, yet will allow us to operate more efficiently.”
The Port Authority’s $4.5 billion budget includes $2.1 billion for operating expenses, $1.7 billion for capital expenditures, $609 million for debt service and $51 million for other expenses.
Major elements of the 2005 Capital Plan include:
- Maintaining and enhancing security at Port Authority facilities, including enhanced surveillance systems and closed-circuit television monitoring systems.
- Initial funding toward the purchase of new PATH rail cars and the rehabilitation of existing cars.
- Initial funding for a study to determine the feasibility of building a rail link between Lower Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
- Initial funding toward construction of a new domestic terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport and an adjoining parking garage.
- Initial funding toward modernization of Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport.
- The start of construction on the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
- Funding to continue dredging the New York harbor channels to 50 feet.
- Construction of a new parking garage at John F. Kennedy International Airport in conjunction with the new American Airlines terminal.
- Continuing rehabilitation of the deck on the Goethals Bridge.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates many of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. They include John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro airports; AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark; the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the three bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey; the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rapid-transit rail system; the Port Authority-Downtown Manhattan Heliport; Port Newark; the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal; the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island; the Brooklyn Piers/Red Hook Container Terminal; and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. The agency also owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.
The Port Authority is financially self-supporting and receives no tax revenue from either state.