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Midtown's Aging Port Authority Bus Terminal to Get Multi-Billion Dollar Overhaul

NBC New York logo NBC New York 1/22/2021 Rana Novini
a group of people standing in front of a building: The Port Authority Bus Terminal is set to get a multi-billion dollar overhaul, updating the 70-year-old structure. © Provided by NBC New York

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is set to get a multi-billion dollar overhaul, updating the 70-year-old structure.

It's the world's busiest bus terminal, but there are no shortage of complaints about it: Its maze-like layout confuses even regular riders, with poorly lit and poorly patrolled corridors making some feel unsafe, especially at night. And forget about cleanliness, especially in the bathrooms.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal was built in 1950, before many commuters who rely on it were born (or their parents...or even their grandparents). Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton on Thursday said some of the complaints are warranted, calling the facility "out of date, long overdue to be replaced."

And to the relief of many commuters, there are now plans in place to overhaul concrete labyrinth. The multi-billion dollar makeover will increase capacity, both for people and buses, by 40 percent, as well as space for buses to park off the street and plans to accommodate electric buses. As an added bonus, plans include room for three acres of public green space as well.

"The new bus terminal will provide full capacity for future projected growth for commuter bus service, will now provide capacity for intercity buses that currently load and unload on city streets, add capacity for bus staging and storage to reduce congestion in the community, and add much needed green space in Manhattan’s densely populated Midtown West neighborhood,” said Cotton.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the facelift will turn the facility into a "world-class transportation hub worthy of New York."

In a win for community organizers in midtown, the new bus terminal will be built on top of the exiting one, meaning no expansions beyond its current location will be needed, according to New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

"This is a big step forward, but we're not ready to put shovels in the ground quite yet," Weinberg said.

Commuters will have to take that patience to heart, as the changes are slated to take quite some time. Construction isn't set to begin until 2024, and the new terminal isn't predicted to be finished until 2031.

Another question: How are these massive changes being paid for?

The Port Authority said $3 billion will come from its 2017-2026 capital plan, relying on the sale of air rights for up to four new high-rise towers. The agency is also hoping for assistance from federal infrastructure programs, with officials hopeful the Biden administration will prioritize transportation infrastructure.

“From day one, the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal that meets the needs of New Jersey’s commuters and delivers a 21st century, world-class facility has been a top priority for my Administration,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “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."

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