As New York City area airports go, Newark’s is relatively easy to get to. NJ Transit and Amtrak both provide regular and frequent service to the AirTrain station, and while the AirTrain is a bit sluggish, it works. Now, at the cost of $1 billion, it’s going to get even easier to get there as Governor Chris Christie will approve a PATH extension to the airport.
Crain’s New York broke the story on Wednesday evening. Daniel Geiger notes that Gov. Christie was set to announce his support on Thursday but canceled his public appearance. Still, the money will be on the way. Geiger reports:
Mr. Christie’s backing would almost certainly assure that the extension project, which has been mulled over by transit officials for more than a year, would be included in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s roughly $30 billion capital plan, which is expected to be released to the public in the coming months.
The extension would be of special benefit to lower Manhattan PATH riders, who would be able to take the line
all the way to Newark Airport and transfer to the Air Train to travel to the airport’s terminals. Downtown PATH service currently ends at Newark Penn Station, and the most common approach for riders coming from Manhattan now is to take New Jersey Transit from Penn Station in Manhattan to the Air Train, a route that requires downtown riders to first head to midtown.
Airport advocates hailed the decision. “A one-seat PATH ride from lower Manhattan directly to Newark Airport Airtrain is a major step forward,” said Joseph Sitt, a Manhattan landlord who earlier this year founded the Global Gateway Alliance to encourage airport improvements.
This move comes after a year’s worth of study. The Port Authority first announced its plans to examine a PATH extension last September, and at the time, they estimated a $600 million project. That cost has, clearly, grown by two-thirds and will clock in at a lofty $1 billion. The details too are still unclear as we don’t yet know where the extension would terminate, but the right-of-way tracks the current NJ Transit/Amtrak routing.
I’m still on the fence about this plan. As I said last year, extending PATH to the airport is a big help for Newark-bound riders from Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Jersey City. But it’s a $1 billion investment in at-grade tracks through a preexisting right-of-way to serve an airport that isn’t lacking in transit connections. It’s $1 billion arguably better spent on La Guardia connectivity, a high-speed connection from Lower Manhattan to JFK or — dare I say it? — those projected cost overruns for the long lost ARC Tunnel. And why has the price tag jumped by 66 percent in 12 months?
We’ll hear more about this plan in the “coming months” as the Port Authority gears up to unveil a $30 billion capital plan. It’s an embrace of transit from a governor who has been openly antagonist toward it, but is it a wise investment? I’m not convinced yet.