If you've ever crossed a bridge, gone through a tunnel, or used any of New York and New Jersey's most traveled thoroughfares and transit systems, then -- whether you knew it or not -- you reaped the benefits of the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York.
The Port Authority of New Jersey and New York is the interstate agency that is responsible for maintaining and operating the two states' most frequented bridges, tunnels, airports, trailways, and facilities, and the World Trade Center. The purpose of the Port Authority is to protect and promote commerce in the Port District, the agency's designated area of jurisdiction which spans 25 miles of land and water between the two states, according to the agency's website.
From a financial standpoint, the Port Authority functions off of revenue generated from the tolls people pay to cross its bridges and tunnels, fares paid to its rail transit system, airport and the bus terminal fees, facility rental fees, and other paid services that the agency provides. In 2013, the Port Authority had a $2.57 billion operating budget that included nearly $1.5 million in revenue from tolls and fares alone.
All of that territory and money is governed by a 12-member Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the governors of each state. The Board of Commissioners is responsible for selecting and appointing an Executive Director that serves as the primary manager of all Port Authority operations.
Port Authority bylaws grant the executive director a number of powers, including the ability to authorize or approve, or reject bids and proposals for contracts, purchase orders or agreements according to what he or she deems to be in the best interest of the agency.
The Port Authority became the subject of national headlines this week as word that members of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's staff may have abused their powers to alter traffic on one of the agency's busiest crossings: the George Washington Bridge. Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly reportedly knew of a plan to shut down local lanes of traffic on the bridge as part of a political ploy against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolick.
It was Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye -- one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's appointees to the Board -- who ordered bridge managers to undo the Sept. 9 bridge lane closures that the Port Authority later claimed were closed due to a traffic study.
The incident highlights the significance of the powers granted to those in charge of the agency, and what can happen when those powers are misused.
If you're still curious about just how much of N.J. and N.Y. territory is managed by the PA, check out this full list of Port Authority facilities:
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Newark Liberty International Airport
Stewart International Airport
Tunnels & Bridges
George Washington Bridge
Port Authority Bus Terminal
George Washington Bridge Bus Station
Journal Square Transportation Center [operated by PATH]
Port Jersey-Port Authority Marine Terminal
Brooklyn-Port Authority Marine Terminal
Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal
Howland Hook Marine Terminal
Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH)
Journal Square Transportation Center
PATH Rail Transit System
Real Estate & Development
Bathgate Industrial Park
Industrial Park at Elizabeth
The Legal Center
Queens West Waterfront Development
The South Waterfront at Hoboken
The World Trade Center