On July 29th, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman Kevin O’Toole and Executive Director Rick Cotton called on the federal government to provide the Port Authority with $3 billion in direct financial assistance to avoid the devastating impact of sharp revenue losses to the agency’s critically important capital construction projects. The agency has projected revenue losses of $3 billion over 24 months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal aid will protect the agency’s capital plan – and by doing so, to help drive the region’s and the nation’s economic recovery.
Without direct federal financial assistance, the Port Authority will be forced to urgently reconsider its 10-year capital plan. This would involve crippling the projects and undermining the creation of 100,00 good-paying jobs in a region that represents nearly 15 percent of national GDP. The projects at risk include the redevelopment of JFK Airport, new AirTrain systems for both LaGuardia and Newark Airports, replacement of the aging midtown Bus Terminal, the PATH extension to Newark Airport, and multiple important state-of-good-repair projects.
The PA’s projects would leverage more than $10 billion in private investment on top of the Agency’s spending – private investment that could easily be lost if these projects were compromised. Combining public and private investment, the Port Authority capital plan would drive $20 billion of capital spending in the next five years, beginning this summer. This construction spending could drive the desperately needed regional jobs recovery. Federal dollars would be leveraged five or ten to one through private investment. Good public policy should support the Port Authority moving forward with its capital projects – and preserving the associated private capital – not slashing them. Strong federal aid will allow the agency to do so.
The economic impact of the capital plan is felt strongly both within the region and nationally. The projects drive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to local, minority and women-owned businesses, and overall, the agency would expect to source nearly $17 billion worth of materials – steel, concrete, glass, mechanical and electrical equipment, and more – materials that are manufactured all over the country.
“There’s a reason that the Port Authority has long received strong support from both sides of the aisle – the agency has always driven job creation and is poised to play a supportive role in the region’s and the nation’s economic recovery. Our capital plan creates 100,000 good local jobs and leverages more than $10 billion in private money,” said Rick Cotton, Port Authority Executive Director. “We are asking Congress to provide the Port Authority with direct financial assistance to offset its massive revenue losses so we can ensure critically important capital construction projects can move forward.”
The Port Authority is undertaking a series of critical, long-overdue infrastructure projects, some of which are deep into heavy construction. These projects employ, and will employ, tens of thousands of construction workers. And the timely commencement and completion of these projects – assuming that doing so is possible given the financial impact on the Port Authority associated with the coronavirus – will reshape the New York and New Jersey region for a generation to come, drawing on labor and supplies from across the region and beyond.
Without federal assistance, the Port Authority will be forced to reconsider its 10-year capital plan which includes the following critical projects:
- LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment
- Newark Airport Terminal One Replacement
- John F. Kennedy Airport Redevelopment
- AirTrain LaGuardia
- AirTrain Newark
- Replacement of the Port Authority Bus Terminal
- Complete rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge
- PATH Extension to Newark Airport
- PATH Capacity Expansion with New, Longer Trains
- Cashless Tolling at Hudson River Crossings
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the Port Authority has kept all of its facilities open and operating to get necessary food, fuel, and medical supplies into the region and to get essential workers safely to their jobs and back home. But the reduction of activity at those facilities is staggering.
To further complicate the already complicated issue of planning and development, there is also political maneuvering afoot with Rep. Ocasio Cortez asking for a delay on any work being done on the LaGuardia Air Train until public input on the various route and right-of-way access is understood.
Over the course of the crisis, airport traffic has fallen over 90 percent; PATH commuter rail ridership has dropped over 90 percent; bridge and tunnel traffic has declined significantly. This collapse in traveler volume continues to produce enormous revenue declines for the agency, with current estimates showing the Port Authority will have a reduction in revenue of approximately $3 billion due to the coronavirus crisis.
The outlook for the aviation sector has worsened in recent weeks given the explosion of cases across the country and the impact on air travel.