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Editorial: How to Fix the Port Authority

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Editorial: How to Fix the Port Authority

New York Post January 30, 2017
Urban PolicyNYC

This editorial appeared in the January 30, 2017 issue of the New York Post

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is an $8 billion behemoth plagued by “politicized decision-making, money-losing facilities and declining financial viability,” notes a new Manhattan Institute report that outlines how to fix it.

And thereby end the massive cost overruns, bloated payrolls, regular scandals and general waste that define the modern PA.

Authored by the Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole, a national transportation expert, the 24-page report pushes a total reinvention of the PA’s unsustainable business model, especially the way it finances its system.

A slow-motion plan for reform may be the only way to free the region from the Port Authority as we all know and hate it.

Using airports, bridges and tunnels as cash cows to cover ongoing losses at other operations, like the PATH, Poole rightly notes, has meant “mediocre airports, congested and inadequate bridges and tunnels, money-losing seaports, a pathetic bus terminal, and the worst heavy-rail transit system in the nation.” And no cash available to reinvest in fixing or replacing what’s wrong.

Instead, the PA should move to finance projects via public-private partnerships, with public pension funds as key investors.

The agency would no longer own or operate the tunnels, airports, etc., but rather regulate an array of concession companies held accountable via bond covenants and the conditions of their long-term contracts.

Up-front payments for the concessions, along with investments, would provide the revenue for replacement infrastructure.

Most proposed fixes for the PA are just Band-Aids for a festering wound — and all die in the face of the entrenched political interests, in both states, that feed off the agency. This strategy is the real deal, and has a key political advantage.

Poole assumes the transition would take decades, as the PA starts by divesting its real estate assets and other peripheral properties to begin retiring its existing debt.

That’s no threat to the power of any politician now on the scene: They’d only be “robbing” future pols of patronage and payoffs.

A slow-motion plan for reform may be the only way to free the region from the Port Authority as we all know and hate it.

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Photo by Getty Images / Spencer Platt

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