Reincarnated ARC Tunnel Funds Proposed to Support Auto Infrastructure

The spoils of the ARC tunnel are being prepared to be doled out in New York and New Jersey, and–not surprisingly–the proposed replacements don’t have quite the same green tint.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has named three major projects it hopes to advance with the roughly $3 billion in diverted funds. Only one of the projects–building a new bus garage at the Port Authority terminal–bares any relationship to transit. With the remaining money, officials from the Port Authority told the Wall Street Journal last week, the agency hopes repair ramps to the Lincoln Tunnel and cables on the George Washington Bridge. The Port Authority has also suggested replacing terminals at LaGuardia and and Newark airports.

Network blog Cap’n Transit points out these two auto-oriented projects do not reflect the agreed-upon priorities from the port authority’s strategic plan. Furthermore, the shortchanging of transit demonstrates a larger political dynamic in which public transportation rarely comes out on top:

The NY/NJ Port Authority has proposed building a new bus garage at the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan--the only of three projects proposed with ARC Tunnel money which supports transit. Photo: The Wall Street Journal

The sad fate of the money that was to be dedicated to the ARC tunnel is a clear illustration of how easy it is for governments to spend money on car travel, and how hard it is for them to spend it on transit.

As you may remember, most of the goals we have for transit (cleaner air, reducing carnage, less waste of energy) depend on getting people to shift from cars to transit. For that, in general, shifting money from transit to cars is bad.

So here we have $3 billion in transit funds that is currently unallocated, and $3 billion in transit-related needs listed in the Strategic Plan. And yet, [Port Authority] Executive Director Chris Ward completely disregards the Strategic Plan and picks two road-related projects that aren’t even listed in it. What could that be about? Ward hints at it in the DNAinfo article: “Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo will work with Christie to decide what those projects will be, but Christie ‘will take the lead,’ Ward said.” And there you have it: Christie overriding the Strategic Plan and diverting more than half the ARC Tunnel money to roads. I never thought I’d miss the days of Jon Corzine.

Elsewhere on the Network today: City Parks Blog outlines how Boulder, Colorado’s investment in bike-ped greenways, rather than road infrastructure, helped normalize cycling, preserve the environment and promote public health. The City Fix considers two opposing trends: the developing world becoming increasingly auto-dependent, while the U.S. and Europe struggle to reverse that dynamic. And the Arizona Passenger Rail Association reports that plans to expand light rail service in metro Phoenix are being met with some opposition from local residents.