| Jersey City, N.J.
Jersey City, N.J. Dec 8 The Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey said for the first time on Thursday its
next 10-year capital plan may include $2.7 billion for Amtrak's
Gateway rail tunnel project underneath the Hudson River.
But commissioners of the bi-state transportation agency
postponed a vote on whether to release their draft $29.1 billion
plan for public scrutiny. Some said they either disagreed with
the current proposals or they needed more time to study the
"overwhelming" amount of information.
Included in the plan is a controversial $3.5 billion for a
new bus terminal.
Commissioner Kenneth Lipper said $3.2 billion of rail
projects involving the city of Newark and LaGuardia Airport
would be an "absolute waste of public funds," though others
"Our credit rating would be in jeopardy," Lipper said of the
potential for increased borrowing.
"We don't have the ability to pay for all those projects,"
said Commissioner George Laufenberg.
With $73 billion of potential needs identified but only
about $53 billion of funding capacity, the authority faces a
roughly $20 billion gap between what it wants to build and what
it can actually build, for now, according to Commissioner
The authority oversees many of the biggest infrastructure
projects in the region and operates airports, bridges and
tunnels in the bi-state area.
Chairman John Degnan said governors of both states signed
off on the draft.
The board expects to call a special meeting before February
to consider the draft further and possibly approve it for public
review. Doing so would open it up to a 60-day comment period and
Some broad strokes of the plan revealed at Thursday's
meeting include some funding for a new bus terminal.
The project has been dogged by controversy, as most public
officials, riders and commissioners agree a new facility is
needed but they have splintered on where to place it and how to
pay for it.
Degnan said the capital budget will also include more money
for Amtrak's Gateway program, which includes a massive new rail
tunnel underneath the Hudson River. He said the amount would not
be finalized until the project cost becomes clearer.
However, Lipper said the draft capital plan could include
$2.7 billion more for the tunnel and suggested a surcharge on
Amtrak tickets to help pay off that debt.
Commissioners did approve a $3.1 billion operating budget
and a $2.9 billion capital spending plan for 2017.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases, Bernard