Saturday, February 25, 2017

Would airport links damage Port Authority credit rating?

AirTrain at Newark (NJ) Airport

A board member at the bistate agency joins some transit watchdogs saying few riders will use LaGuardia AirTrain
or PATH extension

Daniel Geiger reports for Crain's

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's passage of its largest ever capital plan on Thursday didn't come without reservations from at least one of its board members.
During a public board meeting at the bistate agency's lower Manhattan headquarters, Ken Lipper, a Port Authority commissioner appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, repeated his opposition to part of the $32 billion plan.

At issue was over $3 billion of spending reserved for an extension of the PATH to the AirTrain system serving Newark Airport, as well as a new AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport.
Lipper, who aired pointed criticism for the projects during a board meeting in December, reasserted his concerns that the two rail links would serve only a small group of riders, would be money losers for the Port and potentially damage its credit rating and fiscal health.
"It will strain the Port Authority," said Lipper, who in his remarks suggested the two projects together will actually cost $4 billion. "I believe $4 billion could be spent where there's greater demand for our services and where there's ridership."
The Port Authority has not yet conducted definitive ridership studies for the rail links that could confirm or refute Lipper's criticism, even though both projects have been discussed for years.
"What hasn't been done—and it should have been done—is an analysis of the ridership and data that would provide a better analytical base for spending the money," the Port Authority's New Jersey appointed chairman John Degnan told Crain's.
But Degnan said the board, including Lipper, ultimately voted unanimously in support for the capital plan because it allows projects to be further reevaluated before they actually break ground and require the agency to spend money.
"There will be several points over the next few years where the board will be called on to advance these projects further and the next time they'll be revisited there will be more ridership data available and more cost updates and more certainty around the projected costs," Degnan said. "That's why all of us were comfortable, including Ken, voting for the capital plan."
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