We have just a few weeks left until voters head to the polls for the midterms. Takeaway political correspondent Andrea Bernstein has been searching out districts across the country that are hotly contested. She is just back from Stark County, Ohio, where the 16th Congressional district is turning into a political battleground. In 2008, the district went for Sen. John McCain, but elected Democrat John Boccieri to its Congressional seat.
(Canton, Ohio) Alice Prestier has lived in these parts all her life, raising her children and grandchildren here. For 30 years, she worked for Hoover's vacuum company. “If they would have told me that Hoover's was going to go out of business I would have never believed it. Not a company that big. You got too many big companies that just left Canton, Ohio. And this was a nice booming town.”
She ticks off the employers that have left Canton in recent years. “Ford Company. Bliss Company. Hercules. Canton Stamping. Canton Provisions. There was a lot of companies around here. We lost them all. Everything’s gone.” (READ MORE)
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) We neglected to link to this excellent Star-Ledger report over the holiday weekend, but if you missed this fabulously detailed story of the behind-the-scenes to-and-fro between Ray LaHood and Chris Christie, it's required reading. Christie barely gives LaHood the time of day, LaHood stays calm.....
President Obama meets today with governors and mayors from around the nation to talk about “investing in America’s infrastructure.”
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Labor unions, oddly silent thus far in the ARC debate (even with 6,000 constrcution jobs at stake), are begining to get into the act. Here's a statement issued today from the NJ AFL-CIO:
NEW JERSEY STATE AFL-CIO URGES
AGREEMENT ON ARC TUNNEL RESUMPTION
TRENTON – Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, today urged Governor Christie to work cooperatively with federal transportation officials and other interested parties to reach an agreement that will allow the continuation of construction on a new passenger rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York.
“Everyone agrees that we need a new rail tunnel under the Hudson,” Wowkanech said. “Doubling rail passenger capacity is necessary to make New Jersey and New York economically competitive, to reduce congestion on our highways and to improve the quality of the air we breathe.”
Wowkanech applauded Christie for giving the $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project a two-week reprieve after meeting Friday U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Trenton. Christie and LaHood agreed to have their staffs meet over the next two weeks to review Christie’s concerns about projected cost overruns on the tunnel and to present options to the governor that would allow continuation of the project,
From Gov. Chris Christie's pulling the plug on the ARC tunnel project to the guilty plea of former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, listen as WNYC's Brian Lehrer, Andrea Bernstein, Bob Hennelly and (a still anesthesized) Azi Paybarah discuss the action-packed week in local and national politics.
Christie promised a two-week review of several options that could salvage the tunnel after an hour-long meeting with US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
But the Republican governor, in a statement issued shortly after the meeting, insisted the project was "financially not viable" and likely to exceed its 8-point-7 billion budget "dramatically."
"This afternoon, Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project," Christie said in a statement. "At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks.”
Christie's spokesman added that steps are still being taken to shut down the project.
The two-week review follows a 30-day review that Christie ordered last month to examine the likely cost overruns that the project will encounter. That review, instead of sharpening estimates of the tunnel's actual cost, ended up merely reiterating the broad range of figures that state and federal had come up with earlier in the summer, from $11 billion to $14 billion. The Obama administration has not confirmed those cost estimates, however.
LaHood left the meeting, held at Christie's office in Trenton, without commenting to reporters. But later his office issued a statement saying the two officials had held a "good discussion" and that the working group would give Christie a report within two weeks.
The tunnel, which broke ground last year, was expected to double the number of New Jersey residents who could travel each day by train into Manhattan from about 45,000 a day to 90,000.
"The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged. However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project. At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks."
Christie's spokesman would not elaborate on the options, and said work shutting down the tunnel construction is still underway. LaHood issued an almost identical statement:
"Governor Christie and I had a good discussion this afternoon, during which I presented a number of options for continuing the ARC tunnel project. We agreed to put together a small working group from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein that will review these options and provide a report to Governor Christie within two weeks."
It's unclear whether this is a face-saving measure for Secretary LaHood, a big advocate of rail and transit, or whether there will be a serious consideration of whether the project can be saved.
A day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a permanent halt to construction of a new commuter train tunnel, and now he may reconsider.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you ride a bike in New York, you know that bike lanes are pretty much seen as suggestions, not rules. Now comes a report from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that says, in just two days, the bikes lanes they surveyed were misused 1,700 times. Stringer's researchers found unmarked police vehicles in non-emergency citations, "motor vehicle encroachment and speeding," a school bus, and "rampant pedestrian encroachment."
But bikers have their own problems. On Grand Street in lower Manhattan Stringer found there were more bikers going in the wrong direction than the right one.
Says Stringer (all caps his) "CLEAR THE PATH."
Read his press release below:
BOROUGH PRESIDENT SCOTT M. STRINGER RELEASES UNPRECEDENTED REPORT ON BIKE LANE INFRACTIONS
“Respect the Lane – Clear the Path” Survey Shows Flagrant Violations and
Infractions Plague Manhattan Bike Lanes
A day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a permanent halt to construction of a new commuter train tunnel, and now he may reconsider. This comes following a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in Trenton on Friday. In a statement following the meeting Christie said, at the Secretary's request, he will look at other options over the next two weeks.
Listen to NJ Governor Chris Christie's news conference here.
(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D) has come out swinging against Gov. Chris Christie’s decision today to kill a planned transit tunnel across the Hudson River to New York City.
Menendez fired off a statement this afternoon accusing Christie of wasting taxpayers’ money and killing jobs by nixing the multi-billion dollar-project.
“Instead of getting a major investment from the federal government, New Jersey taxpayers now owe the federal government $300 million plus interest and penalties as a result of the governor giving up on the tunnel. That’s on top of the $300 million our state has already spent. New Jersey taxpayers are now the owners of a brand new, $600 million Hole To Nowhere,” the statement read.
Menendez also took aim at Christie’s assertion that the $3 billion pledged by the feds for the project could be used for other programs in New Jersey. Menendez said he spoke with DOT officials.
“The Department of Transportation reiterated that the tunnel was a high-priority New Starts project and that this funding was dedicated for that purpose and can only go to a New Starts project, not to other state transportation projects in our state,” he said.
Federal DOT officials said they’re set to meet tomorrow on the turn of events.
New Jersey’s other senator, Frank R. Lautenberg (D) took a similar stance to Menendez earlier today. “Killing the ARC Tunnel will go down as one of the biggest public policy blunders in New Jersey’s history. Without increased transportation options into Manhattan, New Jersey’s economy will eventually be crippled,” he said.
Lautenberg is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Speaking at a hospital bill signing event in Newark today, NJ Governor Chris Christie, who is just back from a midwest swing where he was campaigning for fellow Republicans, says he hasn't had time to meet with his transit director and his transportation commissioner to "review cost estimates" of the 8.7 billion dollar ARC commuter tunnel.
Christie said he'll be doing "a cold-hearted analysis of whether New Jersey can afford," the tunnel.
Sources say he's already made up his mind to divert New Jersey's 2.7 billion contribution to the ARC to roads, forfeiting the $3 billion federal transit administration new starts funding.
Christie rejected the idea, as Senator Frank Lautenberg has suggested, that the Port Authority guarantee overruns, maintaining much of the Port Authority's revenue comes from New Jersey tollpayers. Full story here.
Speaking at a hospital ribbon-cutting in Newark, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is just returning from a multi-day midwest campaign swing with fellow Republicans, says he hasn't had a chance to meet with his staff or review the final numbers on the ARC commuter train tunnel from New Jersey to New York.
Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, and Zachary Fink, state house correspondent for NJN News, discuss the possibility of money intended for a New York-to-New Jersey tunnel under the Hudson being redirected to New Jersey's roads.
What do you make of these developments? Are you an NJ->NYC commuter? How would this affect your day? Let us know!
NJ US Senator Frank Lautenberg is making a last-minute pitch: he wants the Port Authority to guarantee to pay for any cost overruns on the ARC tunnel, thereby taking NJ off the hook. It's a bit of a Hail Mary -- and complex, because Governor Chris Christie controls half the Port Authority. (Paterson hasn't made a position on ARC clear, and the Democratic Candidate, Andrew Cuomo, says he hasn't taken one yet.)
Here's the letter.
The $8.7 billion trans-Hudson river transit tunnel project is expected to be killed later this week by Gov. Chris Christie, according to several sources familiar with the project. Barring a last minute reprieve, Christie will announce later this week that he's pulling the plug on the ARC tunnel, which would have connected New Jersey to Manhattan.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)
Thanks to Chicago Public Radio's Sarah Smith, we caught up with Gov. Christie in Chicago. He said:
Governor Christie at a Chicago political event. He said:
I have not made any decision I have not been given the information yet by my executive director of NJ Transit or my commissioner of transportation regarding what the real cost of the ARC tunnel going from New Jersey to New York is going to be, and until I get those real costs I can’t make a decision. But what I do know is this: I was alerted to the fact that there were potential for significant cost overruns. And New Jersey's broke. And the federal government's made it clear that New Jersey will be on the hook for any cost overruns on the project.
Well I gotta know what those cost overruns are gonna look like, and whether we’re going to have the money to pay for it or not. So that’s why I put a thirty day halt to construction said go back sharpen your pencils and come back to me. The thirty days runs up this week. When I get back to New Jersey tomorrow I’ll be meeting with my transportation commissioner and my New Jersey transit executive director and they’ll give me information and I’ll have to make a decision. But no I haven’t made any decisions yet at all.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Three sources familiar with the $8.7 billion tunnel under the Hudson river from NJ, say, barring an unexpected, last-minute change of heart from Governor Chris Christie, the ARC transit tunnel under the Hudson river is dead. The sources say Christie will likely announce this week that he's restructuring NJ's portion of the money to go to roads. The FTA and the Port Authority will recoup their $3 billion each, though the Port's money will likely go into other regional projects.
Governor Christie's office, NJ Transit, the FTA, and the Port Authority of NY and NJ all decline comment.