To move the recovery forward, invest in transportation infrastructure
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As business, labor, and community leaders, we don’t always agree, but on one issue we are united: the essential transportation infrastructure that makes the New York and New Jersey region America’s gateway to the global economy must remain strong. We cannot allow it to be destroyed by the devastation of the pandemic.

That’s why we are writing: to urge Congress to approve the request of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for $3 billion in the next federal stimulus package to help offset historic losses caused by shutdown during the pandemic. The Port Authority operates major airports, the seaport, a commuter rail line, bridges, tunnels, and much more. We agree with two dozen bipartisan members of Congress from our region who support funding that would allow the Port Authority to continue its capital construction program.

Let us tell you why.

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From a business perspective, the Port Authority normally functions as a self-funding agency. It is subject to the discipline of the private market and leverages public dollars by attracting billions of dollars in private capital. The Port Authority builds infrastructure for the public -- but it relies heavily on public-private partnerships.

At LaGuardia Airport, two-thirds of an $8 billion rebuilding program that is near completion has been privately funded. At JFK, where the Port Authority stands ready -- if it gets sufficient federal aid -- to begin wholly rebuilding the airport this summer, the ratio of private money to public money is an extraordinary 9-to-1. More than $10 billion in private capital has been committed. We desperately need a strong economic recovery. We cannot afford to lose Port Authority capital dollars and the associated billions of dollars in private investment in those projects.

From a labor and jobs perspective, the agency’s projects would directly create tens of thousands of good-paying local jobs almost immediately -- while replacing aging infrastructure with 21st century airports, bus terminals, bridges and commuter rail facilities.

At LaGuardia, the Port Authority is busy transforming the airport into a new modern gateway -- and 14,000 jobs have been created. At JFK, the Port Authority’s proposed capital project to build a modern global hub would create nearly 30,000 good-paying jobs.

And it’s not just construction jobs – these complex projects involve purchasing massive amounts of materials from businesses in both New York and New Jersey, which in turn generates thousands of additional jobs across the supply chain.

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From a community perspective, it needs to be said -- it’s a whole new Port Authority. The agency has added systematic programs to ensure opportunities for businesses owned by women and minorities; procurement programs targeted to local businesses in the neighborhoods adjacent to the projects; and training and capacity-building programs for small businesses that have not previously participated in local opportunities.

In addition, the Port Authority and its partners work with local community organizations on recruiting and train thousands of local residents to move into the skilled workforce as part of its projects.

But the Port Authority’s ability to create jobs, leverage private investment, fuel economic activity, and benefit local communities across the region has been undermined by the pandemic. Passenger volumes and the funding it generates has plummeted: volumes are down 97 percent at the agency’s airports; down 95 percent on PATH; and down 40 percent at the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels.

The projected loss of revenue over the next two years is a breathtaking $3 billion. Since the Port Authority receives no taxpayer support and relies only on its own revenues, a loss that large will seriously impact the agency’s ability to leverage its operating revenue into capital capacity for new construction.

As Congress considers aiding states and other local governmental units, it must also assist financially independent, multi-state entities like the Port Authority. It would be terrible for these local government agencies to fall through the cracks. We urge the Congress to include multi-state entities in the next piece of congressional legislation, in addition to states, counties, and municipalities.

We represent business, labor, and local communities. We support the Port Authority’s $3 billion request because the $20 billion in public and private capital spending that is at risk is desperately needed right now, to be a part of jumpstarting the region and the nation’s recovery.

The Port Authority was created by an act of Congress 99 years ago. Almost 100 years later, the Port Authority needs Congress to act again.

Congressman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bending the COVID-19 curve proves temporary for many states MORE represents the 5th District of New York. Gary LaBarbera is President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. Kathryn Wylde is President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.