NY and NJ to Build Major Rail Link


NEW YORK—Amid talk of dysfunction inside the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency is moving forward on a project that is at the core of its mission—connecting the two states.

The Port Authority revealed updated plans Tuesday for a rail link between Downtown Manhattan and Newark Airport. The $1.5 billion project would extend the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) line and link riders to the AirTrain circuit at Newark Airport, which would then take them to destination terminals.

The Port Authority would be responsible for shouldering $1 billion of the cost, according to the 10-year capital plan. The project still needs the Port Authority board’s approval later this month.

The estimated completion date for the PATH connection is 2024, and there will be an annual re-evaluation of the projects listed in the capital plan so the projected costs could change as the plan evolves.

When the Port Authority proposed the project in 2012, it was looking at $600 million in design and construction. Last year, the number was updated to $1 billion after a yearlong study. After continued discussion, the cost of the full project was estimated to be $2 billion–$4 billion.

Because the project doesn’t include tunneling under Manhattan—which is extremely expensive—it may not be subject to huge cost overruns like a number of other Port Authority projects in the past decade, said Nicole Gelinas, a fellow with the  Manhattan Institute.

The connection is a good infrastructure project, Gelinas said, and exactly what the Port Authority is meant to do: connect New Jersey and New York.

The project includes building a new platform at the rail link station, which connects the PATH to the AirTrain in Newark. Port Authority also plans to replace the storage yard near the station in Newark and looks for a public-private partnership to build a new garage nearby. Newark Penn Station will also undergo construction to fit the increase in ridership in both directions.

The Port Authority expects to spend about $575 million for the connection in the next five years, mostly between 2017 and 2018, and $625 million from 2019 to 2023.

A Boon for Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is already comparatively more accessible, as every subway line stops there. Besides that, said Douglas Elliman broker Ariel Cohen, the area has immediate access to ferrie, and to the the East and West Side highways—some of the reasons why the area has been so desirable.

“That’s a huge draw to the neighborhood for residential and commercial buyers and tenants, and the creation of a PATH link to Newark would only enhance that,” Cohen said.

With the World Trade Center redevelopment also in progress, Lower Manhattan aims to be attractive to a global market and the Newark Airport connection does that, Gelinas said.

An easier connection to airports from Manhattan has long been a topic for the city’s jetsetters. Ground transportation is currently the hardest part of getting to the airport, and the PATH connection will benefit those between Midtown and Lower Manhattan as well since Lower Manhattan is already highly accessible.

“If you look at other global cities—London, Hong Kong—they already do it much better than we do,” Gelinas said. While the connection doesn’t provide the one-seat airport-to-Downtown access these other cities have, “it will maybe make New York a more globally competitive city.”

The connection will also take cars off the road, which means less traffic and congestion heading to Newark Airport, Gelinas said.

However, said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Super Bowl passengers saw how effective an exclusive bus lane can be in cross-Hudson River travel. The PATH connection is not as significant, Vanterpool said, since NJ Transit already provides a link.

Over the next 10 years, the Port Authority expects to spend $3.3 billion on PATH investments. Half of that will be spent in the next five years for core projects, the connection to Newark Airports, and the redevelopment for the Harrison and Grove Street stations.




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