NJ Gov Christie on ARC Tunnel: Believe Me, Not The "Bureaucrats in Washington, DC"

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NJ Gov. Chris Christie spoke about the ARC Tunnel at a press conference in Bridgewater. (Photo by Sharyn Jackson/WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doubled down today in his fight with Congressional investigators over whether he used faulty numbers to justify killing the ARC tunnel.

As readers of TN know, ARC is an acronym for Access to the Region's Core, a commuter rail project that would have brought more trains between Manhattan and New Jersey--a crowded and increasingly popular corridor that is nearly at capacity.

Christie claimed the trans-Hudson tunnel was on track to cost $14 billion, with overruns borne by New Jersey taxpayers. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the price tag was more likely to have been $10 billion and that the state would have paid only 14.4 percent of that.

The issue is important because Christie rode it, in part, to make a name for himself as a politician who dared hold the line against government spending, which in turn thrust him into the ranks of Republicans who are considered viable presidential candidates. Following is a transcript of the governor's remarks on ARC and the GAO report from a press conference this morning; you can also listen to his comments below.

So the fact of the matter is that--and the last thing by the way that the report doesn't understand is what you understand about the way it works with the Port Authority. This was considered a New Jersey project in the Port Authority and you know that there has to be parity between New Jersey and New York spending. So every dollar we spent on cost overruns, either from the state of New Jersey or if you did it from the Port Authority, would come out of other Port Authority money that would go to other New Jersey projects. That cost New Jersey. So it's absolutely appropriate for us to say that that's a New Jersey cost, because that money would otherwise be available for other New Jersey  projects. So here's the bottom line, Michael. First is I don't think anybody in New Jersey needs advice from Congress about how to spend money. We see what a mess they're in down there. And I think the people of New Jersey are comfortable with the fact that I made the evaluation we couldn't afford this and cancelled it as a result. Secondly, the implication that somehow I should have let this project go forward and left it to later because they would have worked something out with us on the cost overruns? That's akin to like, I'm here from Washington and I'm here to help, you know. I was not putting New Jersey tax payers at that risk.

So let's everybody really read the GAO report and let's look at the commentary this morning from the person at the GAO who said this morning in the newspaper that the report does not opine on the accuracy of any of the numbers.

So, let's stop... I'm happy to be criticized -- happy to be criticized --  by Sen. Frank Lautenberg and the New York Times. I take that as a badge of honor. Actually it means I'm doing something right for the taxpayers in this state...

(another question, inaudible)

That's because they don't understand the Port Authority parity issue. That's New Jersey money, paid by New Jersey tollpayers. That expect it to go to New Jersey projects. And every nickel of cost overruns  that would go to that contribute to a greater contribution by New Jersey. Michael, look at our reporters notes from yesterday, we go through this in great specificity and what it shows from the real numbers is, that the cost to New Jersey was anywhere between 72 and 78 percent. And so this is just a basic misunderstanding by bureaucrats in Washington DC who don't understand how the Port Authority works. They say the Port Authority is not New Jersey money. Well it sure as hell is New Jersey money. And it's money that wouldn't be available to work on the Goethals Bridge. It's money that wouldn't be available to work on the Bayonne Bridge. It's money that wouldn't be available to rebuild the Lincoln Tunnel helix. These are all New Jersey projects. And that we would not get the money otherwise. So they misunderstand it...

I urge you all to look at it and to stop reading the New York Times as your primary source for information on this. It was a leaked report, spun by partisans to the New York Times. And if you read the report they do not once say that we exaggerated the numbers. They don't once give an opinion as to which numbers were right. One thing they do point out in there, is three times in five months, the FTA changed the numbers. You want me to rely upon the FTA estimate when they changed them three times in five months? What that shows me is they had no idea what this project was going to cost, and that's what I was saying. We had no way of knowing how much this was gonna cost, but the one thing the GAO report does confirm? New Jersey was on the hook for every dollar of the cost overruns. And the only thing they can say is, well, the federal government may have helped in the end. Yeah, you know, that's like, I'd be happy to pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today. Sorry, I'm not letting the New Jersey taxpayers be exposed in that way.