(TNS) — After years of discussion, the New York City Port Authority announced plans last Thursday to replace its namesake bus terminal in Midtown with a shinier, bigger and less crowded “state of the art” commuter hub.
The existing bus terminal — which occupies a city block between Eighth and Ninth Aves. — will be torn down and replaced with a new building that will be able to handle 40 percent more passengers than the 260,000 who commuted through the travel hub each weekday before the pandemic.
A new 900,000 square-foot structure for bus storage and passenger pickups is planned for between Ninth and Tenth Aves., where Port Authority vehicle ramps currently lead to the Lincoln Tunnel. New replacement ramps will be built on land owned by the agency between Tenth and Eleventh Aves.
The new terminal will be fitted with charging stations to handle a “fleet of 100 percent electric buses,” said Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton. Unlike previous proposals considered by the Port Authority, the plan pitched Thursday would not require the seizure of private real estate. Port Authority officials considered expanding or moving the terminal to occupy the basement of the Javits Center near the Hudson River, but commuters griped the far West Side location would harm their commutes.
Rebuilding the terminal without taking private property will increase the costs of the project, according to new scoping documents. Port Authority officials in 2019 estimated that building a new Midtown bus terminal would cost between $7.5 billion and $10 billion and could be completed by the end of 2030.
Cotton said Thursday that the price was still up in the air, and said the project could be done in 2031.
Finding the money to build the project won’t be easy. The Port Authority’s current capital plan, which extends through 2026, budgets $3 billion for the bus terminal construction. The remaining costs will have to be covered by other sources, including the federal government
The development hinges on the Port Authority selling air rights for developers to construct four new buildings between Eighth and Eleventh Aves. It won’t be clear how much the agency would make from those air rights until the real estate market stabilizes from the COVID-19 pandemic, Cotton said.
Commutes may be even worse for bus commuters while the terminal is being rebuilt. Officials plan to build and use the new storage and staging facility as a temporary terminal while the existing one is torn down and replaced.
When the work is finished, the new staging area will provide more space for carriers like Bolt and MegaBus, which use West Side sidewalks as pick-up and drop-off areas for passengers. The carriers use the sidewalks instead of the current bus terminal to avoid Port Authority fees.
The current bus terminal was built in the 1950s and last rehabilitated in 1981. It’s the world’s busiest bus terminal — and it’s earned a reputation as one of Manhattan’s most miserable locales.
“A great region depends for its economic activity on transportation facilities,” said Cotton. “The bus terminal serves workers, commuters from New Jersey who come into New York. It generates tax dollars that come into the city.”
The redevelopment plan is part of a larger $51 billion initiative announced by Gov. Cuomo earlier this month to redevelop the West Side that includes expansions of Penn Station, the High Line and the Javits Center.
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