Aided partly by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), New York City-area transportation agencies are speeding work on multibilliondollar capital plans. The marquee project is the $9-billion rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, dubbed Access to the Region�s Core (ARC).

ARRA provided a $130-million “down payment” for the tunnel, said Susan Bass Levin, deputy executive director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in addressing the Professional Women in Construction’s New York chapter at an April 23 forum. “Now we can break ground in the coming months.”

The agency has committed $340 million to the tunnel in 2009, and its project partner New Jersey Transit will contribute $137 million this year. Ernest Williams, manager of outreach for New Jersey Transit, says the agency plans to award $30 million worth of task-order contracts, including planning, forecasting and construction management. The 3-mile-long tunnel is pegged for completion in 2017.

The port authority’s $3.2-billion 2009 capital plan is the largest in its history and a top priority in its $600-million aviation fund is modernizing the air-traffic-control system. “We have 60-year-old technology right now,” Levin said. “You can get...GPS equipment in cars, but no full-blown system in airplanes.”

The agency “helped usher in the auto age in the 20th century with roads and bridges,” she noted, but is now as committed to transit. The port authority this year will spend $370 million on its PATH system in addition to the ARC tunnel work.

Even Phillip Eng, New York State Dept. of Transportation Region 11 director and “not a rail guy,” noted, “We have a horse in the race,” to obtain ARRA funding for a potential high-speed rail system in Buffalo (ENR 4/27 p. 10). But there’s plenty of highway work ahead, with NYSDOT receiving $1.1 billion in ARRA money. “We’re at the halfway mark of the 120-day deadline” to allot contracts, he said.

Richard Raczynski, chief engineer for the New Jersey Turnpike, said the agency plans to spend as much as possible of the $7 billion in the first five years of its 10-year capital plan. By the end of 2010 it plans to have awarded 24 contracts for turnpike widening.

The agency has sold almost $2 billion in bonds after going on a "road show" to meet with financiers, he noted. More than $1 billion of that are Build America taxable bonds, part of ARRA. The agency will get a 35% rebate on interest costs from the government.