The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a dysfunctional monster leeching the life out of the regional economy with bad management, bloated costs, poor decision making and no clear sense of mission said a group of expensive consultants and experts.
Everyone surprised by that finding, please raise your hands.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who pushed the audit as a way of making his point that the agency was wasting money and out of control, was pleased with the result. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, for whom no money is misspent if his city gets an appropriate cut, dismissed key criticisms through a spokesperson.
The biggest point at issue: the grotesquely over budget effort to build the World Trade Center. Costs for this boondoggle have now reached $14.8 billion, up from estimates of $11 billion as recently as 2008. Much of the extra cost came from an all out push to have the visitor’s center at Ground Zero finished by the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Since the pharaohs built the pyramids, artificial deadlines imposed by grandstanding politicians have been a leading cause of cost overruns in the world of public construction projects.
But don’t worry, kids. The federal government will pick up much of the extra cost, so there’s really no problem, right?
The Port Authority was originally put together as a classic blue social model agency that would raise huge sums of money through bond issues and take the corruption and inefficiency of cheap backroom politics out of infrastructure policy for the New York New Jersey harbor area. Rational, scientific planning and impartial decisions would give the region world class infrastructure at the lowest possible cost.
The agency raised plenty of money through bond issues, but the Port Authority has been politicized and badly managed for years as governors in both states have stuffed its management with patronage appointments, used its resources as a piggy bank for pet projects and vested interests sank their claws ever deeper into the agency. Amazingly, calling something nonpartisan and non-political did not change the laws of human nature, even with the addition of cumbersome layers of bureaucracy.
Now the region’s transport network is underfinanced, badly managed, poorly maintained — and the debt service and high costs of the Port Authority are slowly draining the region of economic vitality.
This is how the blue social model slowly strangles itself in red tape.