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NEW YORK CITY-Citing a down economy regionally as well as globally, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says traffic in the first quarter declined at the region’s airports and the seaport. Also down is traffic across the four bridges and two tunnels operated by the Port Authority and on the PATH system linking northern New Jersey cities with Manhattan via rail.

In a release, the authority cites job losses on Wall Street and throughout the New York-New Jersey region, “as well as the global financial downturn that is impacting everything from tourism to international cargo to and from the port.” Year-over-year, the region’s three airports saw an 11.6% decline in passenger traffic from 25 million to 22 million, and a 29.8% drop in air cargo volume, says a Port Authority spokesman. At the Port of New York and New Jersey, cargo volume declined 17.4% from 996,000 to 823,000 TEUs, or 20-foot container equivalent units, in what the authority says is the biggest quarterly drop in more than 15 years.

Traffic across the George Washington, Bayonne and Goethals Bridges, the Outerbridge Crossing and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels was down 5.4% for the quarter. Automobile traffic was down 4.9%, while truck traffic declined 11.6% and there were 3% fewer bus trips across the crossings, according to the authority. The biggest impact was felt at the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, “traditional crossings for commuters going to and from Manhattan jobs,” the release states. Ridership on the PATH system declined 2.3%, or 410,000 riders, marking the first quarterly drop-off in usage since the fourth quarter of 2003, the spokesman says.

Anthony Coscia, the authority’s chairman, says in a statement that “the economic downturn is having an impact on business throughout our region, and these statistics show the Port Authority is no exception. Our overall financial position remains sound, but we need to tighten our belts and focus our limited resources on making the essential transportation investments that keep the region moving.”

Chris Ward, executive director, adds, “We have already instituted a range of measures like a 0% growth operating budget to adjust to this economic reality. We will have to continue to make these difficult spending decisions to position the region for future growth.”

The bi-state agency says its overall fiscal condition remains sound, and notes that much of its revenue stems from stable leases and fees. According to the authority’s 2008 annual report published earlier this year, it garnered $3.5 billion in gross operating revenues last year.

Of that, $1.08 billion came from rentals including $968 million in leases, while $1.05 billion was generated through tolls and fares. Aviation fees provided about $817 million in operating revenues, and parking fees provided approximately $328 million. The remainder came from miscellaneous sources. A spokesman tells GlobeSt.com there are no plans to increase fares and tolls to make up for the shortfall in these areas.

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