STATE – Gov. Chris Christie cancelled a massive public works project that would have doubled commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York today. The governor had previously killed the project on Oct. 7, but agreed to reconsider his decision after meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The ARC Tunnel project was originally estimated to cost $8.7 billion, with the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey each pitching in $3 billion towards the total. New Jersey would have been responsible for the remaining $2.7 billion and any cost overruns.
Christie terminated the project, citing fears of ballooning costs that could increase the bill by anywhere from $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion, depending on who is providing the estimate.
Democrats have questioned the governor’s cost overrun figures, while environmentalists and mass transportation advocates lament the expected decision.
“The Governor was given a deal from the federal government on Sunday that put no extra imposition on the state of New Jersey for its obligation to the ARC Tunnel project, and the Governor refused it,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). “It was clear from the beginning that Governor Christie planned to kill the ARC Tunnel no matter what. In doing so, the Governor has once again put politics over performance.”
According to Lautenberg, the federal Department of Transportation presented Christie with a Public Private Partnership proposal that would have shielded the state from any liability for cost overruns and capped New Jersey’s commitment at $2.7 billion.
“For a Governor who claims to be concerned with money first and foremost, his decision resulted in forfeiting $3 billion in federal funds, $3 billion from the Port Authority, $18 billion in increased property values, and the economic benefits that come from expanding access to higher paying jobs in New York City,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “When you do the math, the benefits of this project far outweigh even the highest cost overrun predictions.”
“Sadly, this historically bad decision that will haunt New Jersey not just for today, but for decades, said Assembly Transportation Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “A responsible governor would have found a way to properly manage this project while also meeting other statewide transportation needs. Unfortunately, we don’t have a responsible governor”
“Instead of fixing it and making it better, Christie has hurt commuters and the needs of the region. Christie can’t take the ARC tunnel to the White House,” said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, who had criticized the planned tunnel because it would not link to Penn Station and could not be used by Amtrak.
“Any economist worth his salt will tell you that you can’t cut your way out of a recession. They will also certify the economic value of ‘infrastructure investment,’ and not confuse it with generic ‘government spending.’” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex). “If Gov. Christie or his new found friends on the ultra right don’t believe this, they should check the history books and see how well their current strategy worked for President Hoover.”
“I am extremely disappointed in Governor Christie’s decision today to halt the ARC tunnel permanently,” said Congressional candidate Ed Potosnak, a Democrat who is running against Rep. Leonard Lance in the 7th District. “Completion of the ARC tunnel would mean good jobs in the short term building the tunnel and good jobs in the long term with greatly improved, more efficient and more frequent access to the higher paying jobs in New York City.”
The cancellation of the project could allow New Jersey to use some of the $2.7 billion allocated towards the tunnel to bolster the nearly-broke Transportation Trust Fund.
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