NJ lawmakers hoping for greater oversight of Port Authority

 Transportation advocates testify at a Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing at the New Jersey Statehouse (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Transportation advocates testify at a Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing at the New Jersey Statehouse (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

The Legislative Oversight Committee in the New Jersey Senate held the first of several planned hearings on reforms being considered for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg says the most important aspect of the reforms is legislative oversight of the agency.

“We need to keep the legislatures of both states, on behalf of the public they represent, involved in what goes on in a place that puts in a budget bigger than 26 states, and they don’t even have to have really public hearings on that budget,” she said.

Martin Robins, the director emeritus of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, supports the measure that would compel Port Authority officials to appear before lawmakers at legislative hearings.

“I do not believe that Port Authority officials should be shielded from legitimate requests to share information and to explain their policies openly with the public’s representatives. I think the precedents that have been set in recent years are deplorable in preventing that from happening.”

New York lawmakers removed the legislative oversight provision from the Port Authority reform bill they approved. New Jersey officials are hoping it can be included in the changes that will be made at the bi-state agency.

Transportation advocates say the Port Authority needs to make transportation projects the priority in its 10-year capital plan.

Anthony Attanasio, executive director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Associationm, told the Senate committee that the agency should focus on its core mission of investing in transportation instead of prospecting in real estate.

“I want to be sensitive to the need to rebuild the World Trade Center site,” Attanasio said, “but at the same time I think the overblown costs and the delay in the project delivery of that is an example that the Port Authority is not a real estate developer, that it should be a transportation agency.”

Tracy Noble, who represents AAA clubs in New Jersey, says oversight at the Port Authority needs to be strengthened to ensure that toll revenue is spent only on needed transportation infrastructure projects.

“Motorists and commuters must receive direct and recognizable improvements to their travel experience if they are asked to pay more,” she said.

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