NJ.com- Democratic and Republican lawmakers are telling Port Authority officials that a new bus terminal should be built in Manhattan and not next to the rail station in Secaucus, as some authority officials have proposed.
We are sending a signal to the Port Authority that a united legislative leadership is committed to a one-seat ride for our commuters," said state Senator Robert Gordon, D-Bergen. "We insist on a facility that will provide that and the capacity that will be needed over the next few decades."
At issue is the authority's plan to replace the midtown Manhattan bus terminal, which is aging and overcrowded. While the authority commissioners voted in October to authorize tentative plans to build a new bus terminal one block away from the current structure, some New York commissioners support building the terminal next to the Secaucus Junction train station and have commuters transfer to trains in an effort to reduce traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel and in Manhattan.
"All the experts agree that the bus terminal should be situated in Manhattan," said Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., R-Union. "It's in the best interest of the region's commuters and of businesses on both sides of the river."
Locating it anywhere but in Manhattan would create "tremendous inefficiencies and cost" in commuting delays and extra travel time, Kean said.
A bi-partisan group of state lawmakers plans to deliver that message to Port Authority Commissioners at Thursday's Port Authority board meeting and at an April 25 hearing in Hackensack about the bus terminal replacement and the Gateway Tunnel project, which the authority is overseeing.
A Secaucus bus terminal could add 10 to 15 minutes to New Jersey commuters' trips and require them to change between buses and trains at a station that wasn't designed for that purpose, lawmakers said.
"It's a two-seat ride if they put the bus terminal in Secaucus," said state Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
A Secaucus bus terminal plan also depends on the construction of Amtrak's $20 billion Gateway Tunnel project to build two new tunnels under the Hudson River, which would allow repair of flood damage in the existing 106-year-old tunnels and add capacity to Penn Station.
Earlier this month, Port Authority chairman John Degnan, an appointee of Gov. Chris Christie, accused vice chairman Scott Rechler, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of needlessly delaying a design competition for a new bus terminal. Degnan has been invited to testify at the hearing along with NJ Transit interim executive director Dennis Martin. Degnan will testify at the hearing, said a Port Authority spokesman.
Rechler called for a trans-Hudson commuter study before a million dollar design competition could move ahead. He favors building a new bus terminal in New Jersey, to connect with NJ Transit rail lines, and hoped that the study would buttress his arguments for it. The competition for the design of the new bus terminal began on March 11.
"What are the concerns expressed by all the (Port Authority) board members? We've read about Rechler's concerns in Manhattan," Gordon said. "We want to understand the views of those, but we want to make it clear what our needs are."
Gordon who is committee chairman, and Kean, the ranking Republican on the panel, were joined by Weinberg, Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, and Senator Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, in announcing the hearing.
Building a bus terminal in Secaucus would shift more commuters to an already overburdened Penn Station, where commuters complain about platform crowding that some said borders on being unsafe during rush hours.
Degnan led the charge to improve and replace the bus terminal after taking over as chairman in 2014. He got the board to allocate $90 million for emergency repairs to fix problems such as leaking ceilings, bad cell phone and wi-fi reception, escalators, lighting and ventilation problems in the old terminal.