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.