Port Authority of New York New Jersey (PANYNJ) road reconfiguration, parking expansion expected to reduce emissions.

Under normal circumstances, road and ramp upgrades at a maritime port might not receive a great deal of attention. The same goes for the expansion of a truck parking lot at an airport. But in the case of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), these improvements are part of a plan toward achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Last November, the Port Authority began construction on the $220 million Port Street Corridor Improvement project to redesign and rebuild Port Newark’s northern entrance, at an interchange which links to the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 78. The roadway configuration will provide truckers with a wider turning radius, which will promote safety—but it will also save time and reduce carbon emissions.

Also in November, PANYNJ approved a lease supplement with the operator of a truck parking facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport that will triple the number of the facility’s parking spaces. Under the revised lease, the JFK Airport Plaza will invest at least $14 million to demolish a building and make way for a larger truck parking facility—and access to more electric vehicle charging stations at the parking lot.

In both cases, these developments could offer incremental improvements to the flow of goods in and around their respective facilities—which is not trivial. And both projects, it is also worth noting, come to accommodate the higher volumes of cargo that the seaport and airport have been handling. (See accompanying story.)

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen firsthand the importance of keeping every link in our supply chain robust and ready,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole.

Both projects are also part of the Port Authority’s sustainability efforts, which include a variety of other measures, such as installing solar panels at Newark Liberty International Airport, acquiring electric cargo handling equipment at the port, and creating incentives for ocean vessels to reduce emissions while approaching the port.

Scope of the PANYNJ Efforts

The Port Authority’s initial emissions reduction efforts focused on reducing direct Scopes 1 and 2 emissions, which include sources such as Port Authority vehicles, buildings, and equipment and electricity purchased for Port Authority operations. In 2021, the Port Authority expanded those goals to include Scope 3 emissions—those dependent on tenants, customers, and employees.

The Port Newark ramp serves around 1,400 trucks per peak hour, as well as other vehicles. The interchange’s current configuration includes challenging hairpin turns. The enhancements will save 700,000 hours of travel time for port vehicles in the first year, which is expected to reduce annual fuel consumption by 70,000 gallons and annual carbon emissions by 750 tons.

The Port Newark project received a $44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program in July 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in 2028. The investment, said Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of Transportation, “will strengthen the busiest container port on the East Coast” and “will make the port’s roadway network safer, more efficient, and improve air quality and congestion.”

Expanding the parking facility at JFK was identified as a priority by the Port Authority when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in online commerce and air cargo arrivals. The approaches to JFK airport are notorious for being snarled by large volumes of trucks.

The expansion of the JFK Airport Truck Plaza was necessitated by a “truck parking scarcity in southeast Queens,” according to James Johnson, executive director of the Gateway JFK Business Improvement District, and “represents a proactive step” that “balances industrial demands and the well-being of communities.” He estimated that 150 homeowners and 500 businesses that have been adversely affected by the lack of proper truck parking facilities will benefit from the expansion.

The revised parking lot lease specifies that the facility contribute to the Port Authority sustainability goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by including more electric-vehicle charging stations and other technologies that will reduce emissions.

Clean Vessel Incentive

The PANYNJ also has endeavored to reduce emissions on its waterways, with an initiative called the Clean Vessel Incentive (CVI). Since its inception in 2013, more carriers have participated in the program, which has helped reduce emissions each year. In 2023, the Port of New York and New Jersey reached its highest participation rate, with 450 vessels enrolled in the program.

“In 2021, the program helped remove 850 tons of nitrogen oxides and 62 tons of sulfur oxides from the air,” said Mike Bozza, deputy port director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Last year, he added, “the Port Authority board reauthorized that program for an additional five years.”

The Clean Vessel Incentive encourages vessel operators to make engine, fuel, and technology enhancements to reduce emissions, awarding incentives for vessels that reduce their speed when approaching the port, run engines that meet clean engine regulations, and use alternative fuels. Reducing vessel speeds improves air quality near population centers and reduces the risk of fatal whale strikes.

The Port Authority recently recognized several companies for their efforts in reducing emissions, conserving fuel, and protecting marine mammals when calling on the port in 2023. Operators were rated in three categories:  vessel speed reduction, percentage of program participation, and an environmental ship index score.

K Line received top honors with a speed reductions compliance rate of 71%, followed by MOL Americas with 70%, and Yang Ming Line with 69%. In the program participation category, Atlantic Container Line, Grimaldi Deep Sea SpA, and Yang Ming shared first-place honors—all three had 100% participation.  Grimaldi also received top honors for its average environmental ship index score of 52.49, followed by Evergreen and Atlantic Container Line.

On the land side, four fast chargers are expected to be available at maritime terminals this year, enabling electric trucks serving the port to quickly recharge. The Port Authority’s sustainability priorities also include incentives toward the use of cleaner cargo handling equipment and upgrades to the port’s on-dock ExpressRail system, where the final design of the Southbound Connector, which will increase freight rail capacity and flexibility, will soon be completed.