Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
NJ to Feds: We May Not Have Agreed About ARC Tunnel, But We Agree We Shouldn't Have To Pay
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 03:51 PM
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey politicians might not have agreed about the ARC tunnel -- but when it comes to paying back the federal government $271 million in ARC money, they present a united front ... against paying, that is.
Yesterday, Governor Christie's office released a copy of a letter that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation --13 congressmen (yes, the entire delegation is male) plus the two senators -- sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concern that "forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel."
New Jersey has been pursuing legal action to avoid repaying the Federal Transit Administration $271 million that the agency billed the state for work on the ARC tunnel project. This letter appears to be the latest attempt by the state to try to get off the hook for the bill.
We reached out to the DOT for comment, wondering: what triggered this letter? Were there discussions afoot about repurposing that money for a new iteration of a Trans-Hudson tunnel -- like the Gateway Tunnel or extending the #7 subway? The DOT says they have "no update."
Governor Christie, who did not sign the letter but applauded its "bi-partisan support," dealt with the ARC tunnel's political history in a statement on his website. "No matter our differences at times on the ARC project," the statement reads, "we can all agree that the federal government's demand represents an unfair burden on New Jersey taxpayers."
The congressional delegation's letter takes a similar tone: "While some of us may differ on whether or not the ARC project should have been cancelled," it states, "we are united in our effort to protect New Jersey taxpayers from harm. We are deeply concerned that forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel, and require the State to postpone or cancel other essential, job-creating transit projects throughout the State. This will only exacerbate the State's transportation and economic challenges, and impose an unfair burden on taxpayers in New Jersey."
Read the letter below.