Believe it or not, New York, New Jersey and U.S. leaders had a good idea when they founded the Port Authority in 1921.

The purpose was not to collect tolls. Nor to run bus terminals and airports reminiscent of the Third World. Nor to waste billions on an extravagant downtown railroad station. Nor to get into real estate development and cause traffic jams.

No, New York and New Jersey got together almost a century ago to create an agency to improve the movement of freight across the harbor.

The great port’s docks were in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but the railheads connecting to the heartland were along the Jersey banks of the Hudson. Transporting goods across the river was exceedingly difficult.

So the New York and New Jersey legislatures enacted a bi-state compact, which was then endorsed by Congress and signed into law by President Warren Harding. It required the states to produce “plans for the comprehensive development of the port of New York.”

The centerpiece of those plans proved to be construction of a tunnel to be used by freight trains that would run from Brooklyn to Jersey.

And, of course, the tunnel faded into the mists even as study after study documented that it would be a boon for both states, not least because it would slash the truck traffic carrying freight off-loaded in Jersey for delivery east of the river.

For more than three decades, Rep. Jerry Nadler has pressed the Port Authority to live up to its original mission and build the tunnel. Now, yet another study highlights its benefits.

Just a few days ago, New York marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Think about it: Half a century has passed since the city, state and region completed a truly monumental public work.

Once we were large. Now we are people of small ambitions.

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