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New York Turns to Unions to Rebuild the Outdated Port Authority Bus Terminal

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A rendering of a planned atrium that would sit on what is now a block of 41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. — Credit...Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

By Lisa Wright

The world’s busiest bus terminal is about to get a long overdue makeover.

In March 2024, Governor Hochul and NYC Mayor Adams announced a new agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to help fund the $10 billion replacement and expansion of the Midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT). The project will create 6,000 well-paying union construction jobs. Experts project that a temporary terminal and new ramps will be ready by 2028, and the entire project should wrap up in 2032.

Built in 1950 with union labor, the PABT was constructed to alleviate the city’s bus traffic congestion by centralizing multiple terminals in one place. A few expansions helped the PABT keep up with growing traffic from the Mid-Atlantic all the way to Canada. But now, the terminal serves a whopping 65 million annual travelers and has outgrown its footprint—and become an eyesore.

Letting The Light In

The Port Authority’s ambitious reconstruction plans aim to completely reverse the dark, crowded, outdated, and confusing experience today's visitors face. New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal quipped, “I look forward to the day the Port Authority bus terminal goes from 'worst' to 'first' in the eyes of the millions of New Yorkers.”

The PABT replacement is just the latest of many significant construction projects the city has entrusted to unions, including:

• The rebuilding of Penn Station, which includes construction of hundreds of affordable housing units and state-of-the-art office space

• The Freedom Tower, which replaced the original World Trade Center towers, also built by unions

• East Midtown Greenway, the latest segment of an ultimately 32-mile loop around Manhattan

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The city has entrusted its most iconic new projects to unions, including, from left, the Freedom Tower, Husdon Yards, the East Side River-Walk Greenway, and the Oculus.

Construction Phases

Replacement of the PABT will take place in two phases over the next eight years. The first phase, scheduled for 2024 through 2028, consists of rebuilding ramps (including new ramps with direct access to the Lincoln Tunnel), and reconstructing the bus staging and storage areas. Phase 2, slated for 2029 through 2032, is when the main terminal will be razed and rebuilt.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal replacement is just the latest of many significant construction projects the city has entrusted to unions.

Features of the New 2.1 Million-Square-Foot Terminal:

• A lighter traveling experience — The new PABT will be bright and easy to navigate, welcoming lots of natural light.

• AI-guided, electric-powered fleets — The Port Authority has been refining AI traffic software to alleviate congestion, and the new terminal will include charging stations for a 100% electric fleet.

• Prioritized accessibility — Unlike the current structure, the new terminal will be designed with accessibility top of mind for travelers with mobility considerations, neurodiversity, and more.

• A green design — Careful considerations have been made to create a sustainable structure, from choosing building materials with the lowest environmental impact to designing the most efficient heating and cooling systems.

• Community spaces and more – Construction will include the addition of a 3.5-acre park, additional street-level retail, and an indoor atrium.

While a long road lies ahead until the renovation is complete, New York can rest assured that the job will be executed by skilled union labor. And unlike traveling through the current terminal, this is something to get excited about.

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Lisa Wright is a journalist and author of several books.

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