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Plans to replace Midtown’s Port Authority Bus Terminal inch forward

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Transit officials will host four public hearings—two in New York, two in New Jersey—on the plans this summer

The Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown, Manhattan.
Max Touhey

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on three options to replace the nation’s largest bus terminal, according to scoping documents released Thursday.

A trio of ambitious scenarios would see Midtown’s overwhelmed Port Authority Bus Terminal renovated or its services relocated elsewhere. One option would see transit officials repair the hub as buses continue to operate out of the terminal during construction. The second solution would convert the lower level of the Jacob Javits Center, which is owned by the Empire State Development Corporation, into an underground bus terminal. A third possibility would relocate certain bus operations to the lower level of the Javits Center in order to free up space at the existing terminal, enabling it to be renovated instead of entirely rebuilt, according to an 180-page scoping document.

The multi-billion dollar plan to replace the aging bus terminal on Eighth Avenue has plodded through years of planning and bureaucracy to reach this point. It was originally built in 1950 and added a north wing in 1979 to boost the hub’s capacity by 50 percent. Currently, it operates beyond its capacity during peak hours—that includes passengers and bus operations—with an estimated 260,000 passenger trips on weekdays. The terminal is projected to see up to a 50 percent increase in passengers during the evening rush hour, or 337,000 passengers daily, by 2040, according to Port Authority estimates.

The May 23 scoping document is the first step in the project’s formal, 120-day public review process that will gather input from locals, elected officials, and New York and New Jersey commuters. Four public hearings—two in New York and two in New Jersey—will be held in July and September. The details for those meetings are still in the works.

“Today’s kickoff of the formal public outreach process for the new bus terminal is a critical milestone for what will be one of the largest and most important transit infrastructure projects in the country,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “We are strongly committed to replacing this legacy, over-capacity facility, and look forward to a spirited dialogue with all stakeholders on how the project will proceed.”

In the meantime, the Port Authority is currently working to assemble an advisory council of commuters and locals who live near the terminal to weigh in on operations and the replacement plans.

The plan estimates the project’s cost at $7.5-$10 billion and commits $3.5 billion in the 2017-2026 Port Authority capital plan toward replacing the terminal. Transit officials expect the revamp to wrap up by 2030. To that end, the authority aims to seek federal funding and plans to monetize its real estate holdings in the surrounding neighborhood.

That may be unsettling news to locals who in 2016 rigorously fought against a Port Authority plan that included razing a handful of buildings west of Ninth Avenue, including the Metro Baptist Church, social services agencies, and an affordable housing office. Hell’s Kitchen residents and elected officials railed against the plan to bulldoze residential and commercial buildings and the Port Authority backed off the scheme. Since then, the building in place option has emerged as a frontrunner.

Commuters and neighbors can submit comment on the scoping document here.