The public will have a first chance this week to weigh on recently unveiled Port Authority bus terminal plans, during two virtual public hearings on Wednesday and Thursday. The $10 billion project is a major component of Governor Cuomo’s midtown redevelopment plan.
The public hearings come as some of the city’s workforce has slowly started returning to work in Manhattan office buildings. But many people continue to work remotely, and questions remain about what the future of office work in the city looks like, and when the city’s full workforce will return, if ever.
The new terminal would be built in the existing footprint of the current Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) at 42nd Street, and is expected to meet the demand of the current and expected number of buses. It’s also designed to accommodate the larger size of newer buses, which are the norm now, but were not when the current terminal was built more than 70 years ago. The project anticipates a future in which buses are electric and would require charging stations as well.
“Currently, the PABT suffers from the pressures of accommodating growing travel demand with aging infrastructure and systems, as well as increasingly problematic functional and physical obsolescence of assets and facilities, and fundamental capacity challenges,” according to planning documents from the Port Authority. “The system of roadways, tunnel, facilities, and services connecting to the Midtown core and the PABT are increasingly sensitive to disruption. Reliability will be difficult to sustain without significant new long term investments and ongoing expenditure of resources to maintain assets during construction.”
Cuomo has been known to bemoan the length of time infrastructure projects take to complete, and he has boasted about projects under his watch that have been completed quickly, like the Tappan Zee Bridge, the new Second Avenue subway stops, Moynihan Train Hall, and East Side Access. But according to scoping documents, it will be more than a decade before the new bus terminal is completed.
The new bus terminal would be done in two phases. The first part, expected to last from 2024-2027, would construct a temporary terminal adjacent to the existing one, where buses can run while the main section is built. The second phase would include the demolition and building of the new terminal, which is expected to last from 2028-2031.
The current terminal saw about 260,000 passengers a day (pre-pandemic), according to the Port Authority. It expects that number to grow to 337,000 a day by 2040.
A portion of the $10 billion price tag, $3 billion, would be funded through the Port Authority’s capital plan. The authority hopes it will get more funding from the sale of development rights of two new high rise towers built on Port Authority property nearby. It also hopes to get funding from the federal government for the bus terminal.