STATE – After Gov. Chris Christie stalled the project over cost concerns, a local lawmaker is suggesting a $2 surcharge on commuter fares to raise funds for a new underground rail tunnel that would traverse the Hudson River.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak also suggested the formation of a public-private partnership, which could pass ownership of the tunnel over to a private corporation after it is built with at least $8.7 billion in taxpayer money.
Christie called a halt to work on the rail tunnel into New York in a move Sen. Robert Menendez called playing politics with a project that is vital to the region’s economy.
“To miss this opportunity would be a huge mistake,” Menendez said Friday as he stood in North Bergen in front a massive earth mover sitting idle atop a pile of dirt where work has started where the new tunnel would pass underground. “I don’t think it’s time to waver, it’s time to commit.” So far, $600 million has been spent, according to Democratic lawmakers who warned the state is in jeopardy of losing $3 billion committed by the federal government.
In addition to New Jersey’s part, the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have each committed $3 billion to the project, which is the largest transportation grant of its kind ever given.
“Every other state is waiting to get their mitts on our hard-earned money,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who joined Menendez in assailing Christie for stopping work. “We don’t want to be just another parking lot for New York City, and that’s what’ll happen if we don’t get this tunnel under way.”
The tunnel, scheduled to be completed in 2018, is the largest federal transportation project in the country and expected to double train traffic in and out of New York during peak commute times, from 23 to 48 trains.
Officials have estimated it will create 6,000 construction jobs and add at least 40,000 new jobs after it is completed.
However, critics point out that the new tunnel will not be used by Amtrak since it will not link up with New York’s Penn Station. There are also concerns that the project could go over budget by a billion dollars or more.
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