New train cars, new signals, even new murals in stations.
That’s what Susan Bass Levin touted for the PATH system on Wednesday as the featured speaker at the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Business Meeting at Puccini’s Restaurant in Jersey City.
Levin, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a familiar face in Hudson County through her previous work as the director of the state’s Department of Community Affairs and in her current role as a member of the New Jersey Local Finance Board.
Addressing an audience that included such notables as Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Jersey City Councilman Bill Gaughan, and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, Levin spoke about the Port Authority’s improving relationship with Hudson County government, and specifically some upcoming Hudson County-related projects, especially billions of dollars of upgrades for the PATH system.
Also taking place during the meeting was the nomination of Hudson County Chamber of Commerce trustees for new three-year terms. Representatives from local businesses such as the Provident Bank, Exeter Property Company, and the Hudson Reporter were in attendance for the gathering, which also offers local businesspeople the chance to interact and exchange information.
The Hudson Chamber of Commerce, which has been in existence for over 120 years, only became known by its current title when Jersey City and Hoboken merged their chambers of commerce in 1979. Currently, the president is Joanne Van Dorn.
On the PATH to improvement
Levin spoke about the approximately $2 billion, 10-year modernization program for the PATH. That includes the $744 million being spent for new railcars, the first group of which will start running by April. The entire 340-car fleet will be replaced by 2011. Also, they will spend $401 million for a new signal system and $678 million for station upgrades.
There are 13 stations in the PATH system, with six based in Hudson County and the rest in Manhattan and Newark. According to Levin, over 70 million riders used PATH trains in 2008.
One of the major upgrades is expanded station platforms for the new 10-car trains at the Journal Square, Grove Street, and Exchange Place stations in Jersey City. Also the Port Authority will make other kinds of improvements to these stations including replacement of escalators and lighting, and waterproofing.
Levin also commented on a feasibility study for a new Journal Square station as proposed in the city’s Journal Square Redevelopment Plan. Levin said in an interview after her speech that the study is expected to be completed this summer.
When asked about City Councilman Steven Fulop’s “Fix My Path” initiative to get another entrance built for the existing Newport/Pavonia station, Levin said that is not “a priority” in their PATH modernization plans because of the expense of doing so.
Port Authority loves Hudson County
Early in her presentation, Levin told the audience that they were “quite fortunate” that DeGise is the Hudson County executive, based on meetings between Port Authority management and Hudson County officials over a variety of issues.
“He understands how to get things done,” Levin said. “I am proud to be able to work with him.”
Levin then addressed how the Port Authority was formed in 1921 as a bi-state agency to deal with longstanding territorial disputes between New Jersey and New York. The Port Authority oversees the operation of various transportation facilities including the PATH, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the Bayonne Bridge, and the airports.
Levin also mentioned that the Port Authority has put together a $3.3 billion capital improvement budget for this year, the largest in the Authority’s history, as she cited the nation’s current economic woes and echoed President Barack Obama’s call to rebuild American’s infrastructure and create jobs.
“The Port Authority intends to be part of the solution.” – Susan Bass Levin
“We know that these problems cannot be solved overnight, but the Port Authority intends to be part of the solution,” Levin said.
She then segued to how the Port Authority is working with Hudson County government in the further development of the PATH system, which Levin sees as one of the ways to spur growth in the New Jersey/New York region’s economy.