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Timeline detailed for New York City bus terminal project

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK, April 27 (Reuters) - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Thursday laid out a new timeline for its revamped efforts to replace or renovate New York City's aging main bus terminal in midtown Manhattan.

Selection of a consultant to help run an environmental review is expected by the third quarter of this year, Steven Plate, the authority's chief of major capital projects, told its board of commissioners.

Construction cannot begin until completion of the review, which would take two years. No use of eminent domain to take private property is expected, he said.

The terminal in the United States' largest city serves 230,000 passengers, many of them commuters, every weekday, according to the Port Authority's website. That number is projected to climb to 337,000 by 2040.

The project has been dogged by delay, partly because of political and territorial disputes within the bi-state agency, as well as controversy over where to locate new facilities and how to replace the hulking, dilapidated structure.

"We are pushing a reset button," Andrew Lynn, the authority's director of planning and regional development, said at a regional planning conference last week.

"We're entering into this without any preferred option. We don't have a site, we don't have a design, we don't know for sure how big this thing will be," he said. "We don't have a schedule, we don't have a budget yet. We're really starting over."

Initial ideas to replace the terminal while keeping it running were expensive and unpopular, despite extensive studies, he said.

As a result, a design competition led to five new ideas about where in the crowded Manhattan landscape the terminal could be placed, but "they did not get a warm reception, certainly on the New York side of the river," Lynn said.

Options to be considered include one that calls for adding more floors on top of the existing building, which would then be repaired.

New Jersey state Senator Robert Gordon, a Democrat, has advocated that option. On Thursday, he told the board that "building up" on the current site, near Times Square, would preserve access to six subway lines and minimize neighborhood disruptions.

The Port Authority included $3.5 billion in its latest capital plan to help fund the project, the total cost of which is expected to be much higher but will not be more certain until the review is complete. (Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)