The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decided yesterday to spend $499 million to replace its fleet of PATH trains, some of which are 40 years old, with 340 cars built by a Japanese company, Kawasaki Rail Car.
The contract to design and build the cars, which was approved during a three-minute public meeting of the Port Authority's board of directors, will be the single biggest investment in the PATH system since it was created in the 1960's, said Anthony R. Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority.
It is part of an $809 million program to renovate the PATH system, which runs from downtown Newark to Lower Manhattan and Herald Square. The system carries about 200,000 riders each weekday.
The new fleet, which is expected to go into service between late 2008 and 2011, would sharply improve the PATH's reliability, Mr. Coscia said. Kawasaki has guaranteed that, on average, its cars will travel 160,000 miles between breakdowns, he said. They will also be more comfortable and easier to clean, he added.
Mr. Coscia would not say if Kawasaki's bid was the lowest of the three the board considered, but he said it offered the "best value" because the total cost of acquiring, operating and maintaining the trains would be lowest with the Kawasaki cars. He also declined to identify the other bidders.
Michael DePallo, the general manager of the PATH system, said the contract would provide a "tremendous economic boost" to the local economy because Kawasaki has promised to spend $128 million in the region on labor and parts. Kawasaki has an assembly plant in Yonkers, but makes the shells of its cars in Lincoln, Neb., a Port Authority spokesman said.
Hiroji Iwasaki, a senior vice president at Kawasaki Rail Car's American headquarters in Yonkers, attended the meeting, but declined to comment about the contract. The company is a unit of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., which is based in Kobe, Japan.
Kawasaki's first big assignment to build subway cars in America came from the Port Authority two decades ago. In 1986, it built the 94 cars that make up the fourth generation of the current PATH fleet. The oldest PATH cars were built in 1965.
With an average age of 33 years, the fleet is the oldest of any heavy rail line in the country, Mr. DePallo said.
Kawasaki also built many of the newest New York City subway trains, including the R142A cars that run on the Lexington Avenue line and the R143 cars on the L line. Kawasaki also formed a partnership with Alstom Transportation, a French company, to produce cars that will be known as R160's under a $961.7 million contract the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded in 2002.
Mr. Coscia said the new PATH cars would be an updated version of the R142's the MTA bought. "Our price on a per-car basis is actually lower than they paid, but we're getting better cars," Mr. Coscia said with a grin.
He said the Port Authority has no plan to raise fares or tolls on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels to cover the cost of the trains. The money will come from $809 million the agency allocated in late 2003 for PATH improvements. He added that the agency had been hunting for ways to cut its annual expenses by $150 million, or about 10 percent, and has already identified potential savings of about $100 million.