Foye sees transportation funding boost as World Trade Center rebuilding nears completion
As Foye describes it, a peace dividend will come once the Port Authority wraps up its work rebuilding the World Trade Center site, paving the way to invest billions of dollars in aging transportation infrastructure.
The phrase is borrowed from the decline in military spending after the end of a war, when resources are freed up for other domestic priorities.
“Just as there was a peace dividend when the United States left Vietnam in the 1970s, I think there will be the equivalent of a peace dividend at the World Trade Center,” Foye said earlier this year.
That peace dividend reinforces Foye’s broader message: that the Port Authority should finally get out of the real estate business, a long-simmering source of controversy, and refocus its resources on transportation and infrastructure.
“The Trade Center has been an enormous distraction for the Port Authority,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, who noted that the rebuilding drained most if not all of the agency’s capital budget. “This is what Pat was brought in to do, which is get focused on their core mission.”
Framing the freed-up cash as a peace dividend also fits with Foye’s portrayal of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as an attack on the nation, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center as a national priority.
“Since the tragic events of 9/11 10 years ago, the Port Authority and federal and state funders have poured well more than $10 billion into the World Trade Center,” Foye said. “That was done not only as a real estate and financial matter but as a matter of national policy.”
The Port Authority will be paying debt service for decades on $7 billion it borrowed for the project, but the agency will cease spending at such a high level, which will provide relief from a cash point of view. That will free up more capacity in the capital budget for airports, bridges, tunnels, ports and the PATH train.
The bulk of the authority’s spending at the site should end within the next two years, officials say. The vehicle security center and One World Trade Center are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, and the transportation hub should be finished in 2014.
Increased Port Authority funding will likely benefit the region’s three major airports—LaGuardia, JFK International and Newark International—that have some of the worst congestion and the longest flight delays in the nation.
Foye has cited the economic drag from such delays, which one study put at $3–4 billion a year in lost output. Two projects he has highlighted are the Central Terminal at LaGuardia and Terminal A at Newark.
Yaro said there are plenty of areas where more investment is needed. A report from his Regional Plan Association called for new runways, technology upgrades and other changes to allow for more flights as part of a $10 billion airport investment agenda.
Other capital funds will be needed for ongoing upgrades to aging bridges and tunnels, Yaro said, while money will also be needed to modernize the seaport and upgrade the Port Authority bus terminal. Chuck Brecher of the Citizens Budget Commission said the funds freed up in the Port Authority’s capital budget aren’t the only financial benefit that could come when the World Trade Center is completed.
“It’s not what he’s referring to, but also down the road you get some revenue out of the investment in real estate,” Brecher said. “So it’s sort of a double dividend, in that way.”
Tags: $10 billion, $7 billion, 1970s, 9/11, airport, bridge, Central Terminal, Chuck Brecher, Citizens Budget Commission, debt service, executive-director, Government, Infrastructure, JFK International, Jon Lentz, LaGuardia, military spending, New York, Newark International, PATH, Patrick Foye, peace dividend, politics, port, Port Authority, real estate, Regional Plan Association, Robert Yaro, Terminal A, transportation hub, tunnel, United States, vehicle security center, vietnam, War, World Trade Center
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