An Agency Out of Control

The Port Authority’s utterly mismanaged World Trade Center project has managed to ring up cost overruns of $4 billion in the past four years, according to a scathing audit of the bistate agency released last week. That means the World Trade Center will cost $15 billion—the project’s cost was estimated at $11 billion in 2008. Auditors said that “poor management” at the agency had “obscured full awareness of the billions of dollars” in overruns.

It’s a sad commentary on the PA and government in general that Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t seem upset by this scandalous waste. “That’s just part of the way the world works, and I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with it,” he said.

Tell that to motorists who have been socked with outrageous toll hikes on Port Authority bridges and tunnels.

The Port Authority is out of its depth, and out of control. Salaries there have risen by 19 percent since 2008. Politicians continue to view the agency as a dumping ground for patronage (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently recommended 50 new hires even as he declared his outrage over the agency’s spending). Meanwhile, motorists now pay $12 to cross the agency’s tunnels and bridges, up from $8 less than a year ago. And two more toll hikes are planned in the coming years.

The time has come for the governors of New York and New Jersey to return the Port Authority to its original mission of managing and maintaining the port’s transportation network. Rather than manage the World Trade Center’s reconstruction, the agency should have sold the site for private development and focused instead on improvements to its critical assets—airports, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure.

The PA has demonstrated that it knows nothing about real estate development and private business. Would any of its leaders trust the agency to build a single-family home for their families? How could they?

Why, then, should the agency be trusted any longer to build, well, anything?

It’s time to bring real reform to the Port Authority. And that means returning the agency to its core mission, and ridding the payroll of politically connected hacks.

Comments

  1. Bernie Goetz says:

    “Why, then, should the agency be trusted any longer to build, well, anything?”  Thats correct. Suppose the PA needs a Manhattan bus parking garage for the Lincoln Tunnel. Have private industry build it. And some of the recent talk about putting the PA in charge of other projects is nuts.

  2. ML Donovan says:

    It is a hard to understand why the media keeps repeating the misinformation that “the World Trade Center will cost $15 billion.” That may be true — if we are content to have a Mutt and Jeff skyline with twin stumps in between — in place of what was once the most spectacular skyline in the world. Otherwise, $15 billion won’t rebuild the site — just the PA portion — maybe.

    It is the two legislatures that are ultimately to blame. They are making a great show of reining in the agency, but the current legislation that would enact two identical bills, so that the bi-state agency could no longer slip between the regulatory cracks, was first proposed in 2008 and was stillborn. That legislation passed the NY Senate, but never made it out of the two assembies or the NJ Senate.

    If the bills had become law, the PA could never have held the last four years of bogus executive sessions where they were able to excape the public eye. Both states existing Open Meetings Laws give any citizen standing to challenge their executive sessions and if they are found to be improper, judges are authorized to void the results of the sessions.

    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Oversight Act would have empowered citizens and prevented all that colluded against the people, resulting in the 600% toll hike  since the beginning of 2008, when Hudson tolls were $2.00. 

    When is anyone going to pay the price for deceiving the public?

  3. Bernie Goetz says:

    ML isn’t correct about the amount of the toll increases, but she is right that there have been huge increases. The preliminary audit called for “top-to-bottom” change at the PA. That would be a good thing but I am skeptical it will happen. Its becoming apparent to many that the WTC site is a boondoggle. So for starters, since there are $ billions more costs at the WTC, should there also be $ billions more expenditures in NJ in the name of “fairness”? Its ridiculous. THE problem is the decision making process for large capitol projects. 

  4. Bernie Goetz says:

    Its beyond ridiculous.  Because the WTC project has $5 billion in overuns, must another $ 5 billion be spent in NJ? The PA is a criminal enterprise in my opinion. The tolls should be rescinded, the PA bankrupted, and then broken up. Get rid of it or live with it.