Kate Hinds covers transportation for WNYC News.
NJ's ARC Tunnel Money Redirected
Thursday, September 08, 2011 - 05:20 PM
Money that was supposed to go to New Jersey's canceled ARC trans-Hudson transit tunnel has officially been redirected to the state transportation trust fund.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority voted Wednesday to pay money -- initially promised to the ARC tunnel -- to the state Department of Transportation instead.
The specifics are laid out in a memo to NJTA executive director Veronica Hakim from Donna Manuelli, the state's chief financial officer. Manuelli wrote she wanted to "take all necessary steps to terminate the Authroity's agreement with New Jersey Transit regarding the canceled ARC Tunnel project." (Read the funding agreement memo; pdf.)
Governor Christie killed the ARC Tunnel project last year, saying it was too expensive and he feared costs would spiral out of control. He said in January that he planned to put the NJTA's ARC money toward the state's ailing transportation trust fund, so yesterday's NJTA vote didn't come as a surprise.
The NJTA collects tolls on the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway ($952 million in 2010), and it had originally pledged $1.25 billion to the ARC tunnel project.
It's unknown at this time where that money will go. Tim Greeley, a spokesman for the NJ DOT, said the state legislature makes decisions about the capital transportation budget in the spring. New Jersey's capital construction budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 has already been set.
Though not unexpected, NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg, long a proponent of a tunnel, was piqued by the move. “This toll revenue was supposed to be used to build a desperately needed trans-Hudson tunnel for New Jersey commuters,” he said in a statement. “Using this money as a slush fund for other transportation projects is a disservice to New Jersey residents facing congestion on our roads and seeking access to more jobs and more trains in and out of New York.”
New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund finances the annual capital program of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT. The lion's share of its revenue comes from the state's gas tax, which is the third lowest in the nation. Governor Christie has said repeatedly he will not raise the gas tax.