The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s plans to tear down its Midtown bus terminal and replace it with a new, state-of-the art facility on the current site is being praised by New Jersey officials who say they’ve long advocated for improvements.
After years of talks, research and public input, the Port Authority said within the next decade it aims to revamp the cramped, 70-year-old building on West 42nd Street into a world-class terminal that’ll expand passenger capacity by 40%.
Port Authority officials unveiled its plan Jan. 21, saying the revamped station will “deliver commuters and travelers the vibrant, 21st century bus terminal” they deserve.
‘Out Of Date’ Transit Hub
Built in 1950, the Port Authority expanded the existing terminal in 1981 but it hasn’t undergone any significant upgrades since. It has, however, seen significant increase in the number of passengers passing through each day and is now considered the busiest bus terminal in the world.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic—and more people doing their jobs remotely—the bus station served about 260,000 passengers every weekday, according to the Port Authority. While that number has declined 65% due to COVID-19 over the past year, the agency expects it to rebound as the economy heals and demand to increase 30% by 2040.
Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said the agency is “committed to dramatically transforming one of the region’s most notorious and out of date transit facilities.”
The current 186-gate facility “was not designed and cannot handle today’s volume and modern buses,” Cotton said.
After weighing 30 different proposals over the years, the Port Authority decided to build a new 2 million-sq.-ft. terminal on the existing property. During construction, a temporary terminal will be used to ensure minimal service disruptions, the agency said.
The new building will include 160 bus gates on five floors, community green space and 21st century technology, amenities and retail space. New ramps are planned for easier access to and from the Lincoln Tunnel, along with a second, new building to store and stage buses so they won’t congest or pollute city streets.
Port Authority officials said they anticipate the completion of the temporary terminal in 2026 and the new, main one in 2031. However, there is still some additional design, environmental and engineering work to do, along with approval from the Federal Transportation Administration.
Terminal Will ‘Vastly Improve Customer Experience’
Considered one of the most unpleasant mass-transit gateways into New York City, the Port Authority’s plan will greatly benefit the tens of thousands of Garden State residents who pass through it on a daily basis, New Jersey officials said.
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), who has been pushing for a new terminal since 2014, said she was “pleased to see the Port Authority moving forward on construction of an expanded bus terminal at the current site, where New Jersey commuters will continue to have easy access to many subways and bus lines that run down Eighth Avenue.”
For the past four years, Weinberg and New York Congressman Jerold Nadler co-chaired the Bi-State Port Authority Bus Terminal Workgroup to review and evaluate redevelopment plans. Other New Jersey members of the group included Sens. Tom Kean (R-21) and Patrick Diegan (D-18), along with Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14).
Kean said he believes the new facility “will ensure the Port Authority has the extra capacity it needs to meet the growing demand” and will “vastly improve the customer experience.”
Benson added, “This much-needed expansion will help us keep up with the robust growth of public transportation…an uptick driven by the growing demand for New Jersey’s talented workforce.”
Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the plan as well, saying it has been a “top priority” for his administration.
“The release of this plan is a concrete step toward our goal to expand bus capacity, ease the stress of our commuters and provide reliable transportation infrastructure that will carry our regional economy forward,” he said. “Throughout this process, the Port Authority has been a key partner in advancing this necessary transportation project that will ultimately create more efficient bus service on both sides of the Hudson.”
Funding The Revamp
The Port Authority declined to say how much the overhaul would cost, but the New York Times reported the price tag to be around $10 billion.
The agency did say it will use $3 billion from capital funds, along with funding from the possible sale of air rights for up to four new high-rise towers. They’re also looking for federal assistance, with officials hopeful President Joe Biden’s administration will prioritize transportation infrastructure.