ARC tunnel supporters are taking advantage of the two-week reprieve that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the project to make their case again. Christie canceled the project last week because of cost overruns, though he later agreed to study more options after a meeting with federal government officials.
Today New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and Regional Plan Association president Bob Yaro unveiled a new study ("The ARC Effect") that reiterated some of the arguments in favor of the $9 billion dig. And they said the study demonstrates the importance of the tunnel to a group of people whom, they said, had been overlooked: the Garden State's commuters.
"Just wait a few years. If there's no ARC tunnel, New Jersey commutes will come to a complete stop," warned the senator. "And if we cancel this project, New Jersey will continue to expand its role as a parking lot for New York City, isolated from job opportunities in Manhattan by making the travel time longer. Jobs that will have gone to New Jerseyans will instead go to people in Connecticut, Westchester, and Long Island."
The benefits of the tunnel, Lautenberg continued, are legion: better transit options would increase property values by $18 billion. Commuting times would drop on average by 15 to 30 minutes, which mean more family/leisure time. And the tunnel was critical for Homeland Security purposes.
But above all, he hammered home the point he's been making for some time now: New Jersey needs the tunnel, it has committed to building the tunnel, and it must respect that commitment. The senator wouldn't directly answer questions asking about what specific plans are under way to save the tunnel. But he said he wouldn't rule out going back to the federal government for more money.
"I'll certainly make the plea," he said. "I want the federal government to help out here. But New Jersey has to pick up its responsibility."
Bob Yaro said the need for the tunnel was a foregone conclusion, and that it was never going to be cheaper than now. "The congestion's only going to get worse. And the next governor, or the governor after that, is going to have to move ahead with this thing. And that's when you really will see a $15 billion or a $20 billion price tag."
Senator Lautenberg was asked if New York would be contributing money to the tunnel. "They haven't asked to do so," he said cagily, and he continued that he'd only ask them "warily." He said he hasn't gotten a response yet from a letter he wrote to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asking them to help with any additional cost overruns. "They haven't said no," he said. "That doesn't mean they've said yes."
Governor Christie's office had no additional comment today beyond the statement they released last week, which reads:
“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.”
That two week mark is coming up on Thursday, October 21.
Read the RPA's study here (pdf).
Listen to the audio from today's press conference by clicking on the following link: Senator Frank Lautenberg and Bob Yaro, Regional Plan Association