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Christie Hires Law Firm to Fight Feds Over ARC Reimbursement

Thursday, December 02, 2010

WNYC

Here come the lawyers.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has hired a law firm to challenge a $271 million tab the federal government says the state owes for the canceled ARC rail tunnel. Christie says he's approved the selection of the high-powered Washington, D.C. firm of Patton Boggs.

New Jersey Transit, which oversaw the trans-Hudson tunnel project that Christie killed in October, could ratify a contract with the firm at its meeting a week from Thursday.

Christie's office said yesterday the state would challenge the federal bill for money already spent on the project, known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC. 

The November 24 bill seeks payment within 30 days.

A Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the hire, saying "We're much better off using a firm like this than using our own in-house attorneys or attorneys general. Not to knock their expertise, but let's face it, that's what these attorneys [at Patton Boggs] do for a living."

Stuart Pape, managing partner at Patton Boggs, said he would not discuss strategy. But he did say, "There are lots of different ways to solve problems in Washington. You look at them all." He did not rule out the possibility of a negotiated settlement before heading to court.

Drewniak said the firm would be charging $485 an hour. He wasn’t sure where the money to pay that rate would come from -- only that it would be found. “There are always contingencies for every agency of government for conducting legal affairs,” he said. “Everybody has to budget money.”

Patton Boggs is listed by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit group that tracks influence in Washington, as the nation's top lobbyist over the last twelve years, with about $400 million in billings since 1998. Its clients include Walmart, several health-care related companies and local governments.

In April, New Jersey Transit voted to raise most train and bus fares by 25 percent to help plug a $300 million budget hole that began on July 1. Off-peak fares rose by almost 50 percent and off-peak discounts were eliminated. The agency also cut 35 trains and 16 bus routes.

Olivia Alair, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation says the agency has the law on its side because New Jersey Transit signed a work agreement that "requires it to pay back the money if ARC was cancelled."

But the governor’s office says the FTA has not charged other cities for work done on halted projects, and that “the FTA is demanding money that New Jersey would have received…regardless of the ARC tunnel project.”

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Comments [15]

maron

who's was vote for him.seem like your don't know what your want.there is noway that guy can be a nice man bcoz hi too fat

Dec. 09 2010 05:05 PM
DB from DC

@ Paul from South Orange--- Slam Christie's politics, his decision on this tunnel, whatev. But the comment about him not being able to see his toes, etc., in years? Not cool.

Dec. 08 2010 05:30 PM
JoeT

One word description for Christie and his antics on the ARC project and loss of 1/2 billion in education funds...
IDIOT!!!

Dec. 08 2010 05:05 PM
Dexter Wong

Gov. Christie is penny-wise and pound-foolish. His short-sighted move will impact NJ-NYC commuters for years.

Dec. 06 2010 04:31 AM
pbish

So this Governor is giving millions to lawyers to fight the Feds on a project that would give jobs to people in NJ, all because he is a Republican and he has to tow the GOP partisan line? As for presidential hopes, you will see dozens of these people being vetted on all the news networks in the coming months. Christie, Barbour, Romney, etc. Most white, fat, and unimpressive.

Dec. 05 2010 11:47 AM
You have got to be kidding me people from Indianapolis

Obviously nobody who has posted a comment so far has an understanding of what this will actually cost New Jersey. The reality is that this project, like many government projects, is severely underestimated in cost and, as a result, underfunded. All of the cost, over the money the federal government agreed to contribute, would be burdened by the State of New Jersey, which is close to bankruptcy now.

Everyone would love this tunnel to be created. It makes sense it most ways, with the key exceptions being cost and what the tunnel will actually yield, in terms of fares paid. For the commentator who said the tunnel would pay itself off in a few years, you are clearly delusional. If they charged $500 or $1,000 per trip, it would still not pay itself off in a few years.

Other projects, that have been similar in scope, such as the big dig in Boston and the Chunnel between Great Britain and France have ended up costing taxpayers many times their initial estimate. The taxpayers in New Jersey would be on the hook for all of these cost overruns.

Here is an excerpt from How Stuff Works on the Chunnel.

The Chunnel, or the Channel Tunnel, is a trio of 31-mile (50-kilometer) long tunnels underneath the English Channel, connecting the United Kingdom and France. When finished in 1994, the Chunnel's $21 billion cost made it the most expensive construction project in history [source: PBS]. But the project's initial cost was severe, and it continues to exact a heavy financial toll. Construction involved 13,000 engineers and workers, 250,000 engineering drawings and, sadly, 10 deaths.

In other words, Great Britain's tax payers are still paying the bill for a project completed more than 16 years ago.

Now for the big dig. Also from how stuff works from Discovery. Note both of these are listed under "Construction Projects that Broke the Bank."

Construction began near the end of 1991 and finished on Dec. 31, 2007. The original cost estimate was $2.6 billion, eventually rising to $14.8 billion by the time the project was done [source: LeBlanc]. But with the interest due on borrowed funds -- which will be paid through 2038 -- the Big Dig will eventually cost $22 billion [source: Murphy].

Note, the project cost more than 5 times the initial estimate and may rise to more than 8 times the initial estimate. As I mentioned before this is one of many things that sounds like a great idea, until you examine cost. Sounding like a good idea does not make it one.

Dec. 05 2010 09:08 AM
John Hall

To Paul Baretsky: You are right about the recall. But I have a problem with your comment: "But he can't see beyond today, which is not unusual for a man who hasn't seen his toes and other parts in years." I myself am a big guy, and I take offense with you suggesting that all big men are like this goofball. I am in favor of the rail tunnel and realize how important it is for both NY and NJ.

Dec. 04 2010 02:42 PM
Larry

This guy may become the next president of th U.S.A. Get ready

Dec. 04 2010 10:16 AM
TroubleCominEveryday

I think I am in hell.

Dec. 03 2010 10:59 PM
BTinSF from San Francisco

So now instead of getting a new tunnel and efficient transportation system for our money, we will get lots of litigation and the fun of watching lawyers enrich themselves. Thanks Chris.

PS: The world keeps laughing at our inability to build anything or create anything or get anything done except self-abuse.

Dec. 03 2010 07:13 PM
Paul Baretsky from South Orange

This vile and arrogant man should be recalled. He has done absolutely nothing for the middle class, turned his back on the poor and disabled and sucked up to the rich. The third tunnel into NYC is an absolute necessity and would have paid for itself in the coming years. But he can't see beyond today, which is not unusual for a man who hasn't seen his toes and other parts in years. He lost the money for education and now the state will have to pay back millions to the Feds and his lawyers. If the lawyers on the State payroll are so incompetent, why not save money by firing them and leave the teachers alone. YES, I do miss Corzine.

Dec. 03 2010 07:01 PM
LEE

I wonder how much this law firm will cost the State of NJ?

Dec. 03 2010 04:28 PM
Jon Corzine from Not the governor's office

Miss me yet?

Dec. 03 2010 01:02 PM
GB Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Christie cancels a much-needed tunnel, refuses to raise taxes on the wealthy to fill the budget gap, but lays out $500 an hour in NJ taxpayer money so he can steal US taxpayer money that was specifically targeted for the much-needed tunnel. What an unbelievable prick.

Dec. 03 2010 11:16 AM
glad not to be in nj from not in nj thank gawd

you go Joisey !!!

nice job you fat pos christie !!!

hey new jerseyians happy that you voted for this fat slob still ???

bawahahahahahahaha

just keep on flushing that nj tax payer $$$$ down the crapper !!!!!

Dec. 03 2010 11:08 AM

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