Marking a major step forward in a years-long scheme to retire the grime-encrusted septuagenarian hellscape known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has revealed the two-firm team that will lead the design of a sparkly new Midtown Manhattan bus hub: Foster + Partners and the Chicago-headquartered design and engineering firm Epstein, which has helmed numerous large-scale infrastructural projects and, notably, worked on the expansion and renovation of the nearby Jacob K. Javits Center. As for London–based Foster + Partners, the firm has numerous major transport projects spanning the globe under its belt.
As detailed in a news release, the two firms will “provide architectural design services for the replacement project beginning immediately and throughout the design phase and the environmental review of the proposed project.”
The Port Authority further elaborated in its announcement:
“As part of their design effort, the team will review, evaluate, recommend, and provide advisory services on urban design, streetscape, functionalism, community impact, design and spatial strategies, materials, systems, sustainability, and interior design. In addition, it will provide critical support during the ongoing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and ensure that the architectural design contemplated is consistent with the Port Authority’s ambitious goals for the proposed project. The firm will provide their services to the Port Authority as advisory and consulting services.”
Said project was first announced early last year after previous plans, some of which envisioned burying the bus terminal underground or relocating it altogether, failed to leave the proverbial gates. Informed by extensive public feedback, the current plan, as proposed, involves razing the current bus terminal, an International Style behemoth straddling Eighth and Ninth avenues between 41st and 42nd streets, and constructing a state-of-the-art transit hub within the very same footprint.
“New Yorkers and visitors, alike, deserve the best when it comes to transportation infrastructure, and today’s announcement brings us one step closer to a world-class Midtown Bus Terminal,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who has used choice (and not at all inaccurate) words in describing another aging, labyrinthine Manhattan transit hub located just to the south of Port Authority. “As we continue to build back from the pandemic, it’s vital that we create state-of-the-art transportation hubs to get commuters to their destinations safely and efficiently.”
The LEED-targeting new facility would be equipped with a bevy of bells and whistles—electric bus charging stations, sensor-based monitoring systems, and more. It would increase intercity and bus capacity by 40 percent. Also envisioned is a separate storage and staging facility accommodating intercity buses, which currently pick up and drop off passengers on nearby local streets, as well as an enclosed ramp structure linking the terminal with the Lincoln Tunnel that would be topped with a 3.5-acre swath of public green space. On the street-level, the terminal will be ringed with “community-friendly” retail space.
“We are delighted to be appointed to the project, continuing to develop and maintain a unified vision for the Midtown Bus Terminal in Manhattan,” said Juan Vieira-Pardo, partner at Foster + Partners, in a statement. “Already the world’s busiest bus terminal, the project also has the potential to become the most desirable destination in Midtown. We believe that together with the Port Authority, Epstein, representatives of the surrounding community, stakeholders and passengers, we can help deliver an innovative, state-of-the-art, net zero transportation facility that is fit for the 21st century.”
As mentioned by Vieria-Pardo, the current Port Authority Bus Terminal (apparently the Port Authority doesn’t want its name attached to the facility in its new iteration) is the world’s largest busiest bus terminal and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The original terminal, now known as the South Wing, first debuted in 1950 to acclaim; it gained a three-level vertical parking deck in the early 1960s, followed by the North Wing annex in 1979. Although things have vastly improved since the rough-and-tumble 1970s and 80s when the Times Square-adjacent terminal and the immediate area around it had what can only be described as a reputation, the complex itself—dark, dank, disorienting—remains (almost) universally loathed. This is unfortunate as the much-hated on facility is a major regional transit hub, particularly for New Jersey residents commuting into Manhattan for work. Based on pre-pandemic ridership trends, demand through 2040 is expected to increase by 30 percent.
The construction of the new terminal will be a carefully phased process as it, as mentioned, directly replaces the current one. “Tentative plans call for a phased construction approach with the staging and bus storage facility to occur first, so that it can serve as a temporary terminal while the existing terminal is being demolished and rebuilt,” the Port Authority explained. “The decking over of sections of Dyer Avenue would occur early in the phased construction also providing temporary bus staging locations while the main bus terminal is completely rebuilt. Once completed, the decked over areas of Dyer Avenue would become important public green space that reknits the local community.”
While the new Midtown Bus Terminal would rise on the same site as the existing terminal, the larger redevelopment proposal does call for the construction of a quartet of high-rise towers in the immediate vicinity: One on Eighth Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets; one on Ninth Avenue between 40th and 41st streets; one on 11th Avenue between 39th and 40th streets; and one on 10th Avenue between 39th and 40th streets. The development of these towers on Port Authority–owned property would help to finance the ambitious $10 billion project via the sale of air rights. An estimated $3 billion will come from the Port Authority’s capital budget; the agency is also seeking federal funding.
As for the project’s current status, it is now entering the federal NEPA review stage. As this process moves along, “ongoing planning conversations and public outreach will increase stakeholder engagement,” explained the Port Authority. “The process entails the issuance of a draft environment impact statement (EIS), a public hearing and comment period on that document, and an expected release of a final EIS in summer 2023. A decision on the proposal would follow in the form of a Record of Decision.”
In other words, there’s still a long way to go before the current bus terminal comes down and the new one rises. The Port Authority had previously said it hopes to open the new terminal by 2032. AN will share new developments as they emerge.