Port Authority taps firms to redesign ‘mega,’ one-of-a-kind bus terminal

·4 min read

NEW YORK — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is forging ahead with plans to design a new "best-in-class" Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority, announced the hiring of two international architecture firms that will be tasked with figuring out how to build a facility within the physical constraints of the busiest part of Manhattan that will accommodate future growth, all while accommodating ongoing commuter traffic during construction.

A. Epstein & Sons International and Foster+Partners will be fine-tuning a design plan that includes constructing a replacement facility on the current site, adding a new bus storage facility nearby, rebuilding ramps to and from the Lincoln Tunnel and building private developments around the new terminal and 3.5 acres of new green space.

“We were seeking a world-class architect with experience building transportation facilities in dense urban environments with a reputation for creative design related to public buildings,” Cotton said at Thursday's event. “It symbolizes our commitment to move this project forward and to move it forward with the highest possible standards."

Here are some elements that will be incorporated into the new facilities:

  • Artificial intelligence for bus management.

  • Accommodations for future growth and larger buses.

  • Bus storage space, which the current terminal doesn’t have.

  • Sustainability components including space for electric buses and chargers, heat recovery reuse and onsite generation of renewable energy.

The bus storage facility will be built first. Then bus operations will shift from the current terminal to the bus storage facility while the old terminal is torn down and rebuilt with an estimated opening date of 2031. The 3.5 acres of future green space will first be paved over and used for staging and storing buses temporarily, then remade into green space after construction.

Construction of the new facilities is estimated to cost between $7.5 billion and $10 billion and will be challenging, Cotton said.

“The construction process is going to be very difficult,” Cotton said. “We’re going to do everything we can to mitigate its impacts.”

A screen copy photo of a rendering of a significant milestone in the midtown Bus Terminal Replacement Project during a press conference at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on 08/04/22.
A screen copy photo of a rendering of a significant milestone in the midtown Bus Terminal Replacement Project during a press conference at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on 08/04/22.

News of the firms' hirings comes a week after the board approved nearly $28 million to reinforce and monitor a nearly 60-year-old concrete truss structure that supports three parking levels at the terminal and had caused "concerns," according to Cotton.

The challenges of reimagining the world’s busiest bus terminal could be heard and felt Thursday as creaking escalators guided tourists and commuters buzzing around the 72-year-old corridors. Tremors from buses bustling beneath and above the press conference stage in the concourse of the terminal could be felt by the few standing still in the middle of Manhattan.

The bus terminal has been surviving in a state of obsolescence since 2014, when the bistate agency deemed it outdated. Larger commuter buses cannot fit around the tight corners that were built for smaller vehicles, broken-down or idling buses create instant chokepoints, and commuters snake around hallways and down escalators in the limited concourse waiting space.

The two firms have worked on some of the largest and most complex transportation and city projects in the world, including the new Crossrail system in London and the expansion of the Javits Convention Center in New York City.

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Juan Vieira-Pardo, of Foster, said “a project of this scale doesn’t quite exist,” which makes its complexities unique.

“As transportation gets basically busier … you have to [consider] that from a much broader point of view and make sure we use technology,” Vieira-Pardo said, adding that they are also taking into consideration “how you actually design a building that’s going to integrate in this section of Manhattan.”

Before the pandemic, about 260,000 people a day moved through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which services NJ Transit commuter buses and intercity buses like Greyhound and connects to the city’s busiest subway station, which hosts 12 lines on 42nd Street.

The permitting process is expected to be completed next year, and construction is expected to begin before 2024.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Port Authority picks architecture firms to lead bus terminal design