The age of the 71-year-old Port Authority Bus Terminal is showing — and it is costing the agency tens of millions of dollars to maintain the midtown Manhattan station until a replacement is built.
The board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday approved $27.8 million in spending to reinforce and monitor a nearly 60-year-old concrete truss structure that supports three parking levels at the terminal.
“The proposed project would provide for in-depth inspections, cleaning and repairs to elements of the truss system to ensure that the existing terminal is maintained in a state of good repair for its remaining life,” the board’s agenda explained.
“Regular inspections detected concerns, and that is what put the project on the schedule.” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said at the board’s meeting in lower Manhattan.
The bus terminal, at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, was one of the busiest stations in the world pre-pandemic, but the Port Authority’s plans to replace it have dragged on since it was deemed obsolete eight years ago.
The bistate agency unveiled plans last year to replace the dilapidated and crowded transit hub. The proposal, laid out in a draft environmental report to the Federal Transit Administration, calls for razing the building and erecting a replacement at the existing location along with an additional bus storage depot on the west side of Ninth Avenue. That depot would also serve commuters temporarily during construction.
In addition to those buildings, the ramps that connect the terminal to the Lincoln Tunnel would be rebuilt. Four towers for private development would also go up to help cover the costs, and 3.5 acres of green space would be created for the public.
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The target completion date is 2031. Past estimates have put project costs around $10 billion.
The COVID pandemic severely curtailed ridership at the Midtown station, but interstate bus travel is rebounding, officials said.
NJ Transit, the biggest single user of the terminal, said this month that it had seen a “significant uptick” in bus passengers going between New York and New Jersey, particularly around the week of July 4. NJ Transit spokeswoman Emma Wright attributed the increase to “recreational and discretionary travel into New York City as tourism begins to rebound.”
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Earlier this month, there were around 150,000 travelers passing through the bus terminal daily, according to Port Authority officials. That’s down about 40% from the 260,000 people who passed through the terminal regularly before COVID.
Port Authority officials did not discuss the replacement plans in public at Thursday’s meeting. But board chairman Kevin O’Toole said the commissioners received an update in executive session that they couldn’t share publicly yet.
The update, which he said should be announced “very soon,” is “really exciting and will set the stage for the next process with a new bus terminal.”
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to your work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.