Transit Tunnel Proponents, Caught Off Guard, Fight Back

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Almost up until the time New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he'd be shutting down the largest transit construction project in U.S. DOT history, federal government supporters and local planners seemed to believe the ARC tunnel couldn't die.

The project's benefits were too great, they thought — doubling commuter rail capacity into New York City, reducing carbon emissions, creating 6,000 construction jobs and many more permanent jobs — for it to die.

But they read Governor Chris Christie wrong.  A belt-tightener whose national star is on the rise in the Republican party, Christie had become alarmed by some preliminary figures he'd seen showing cost overruns, and never wavered from that stance, even as his administration was quietly lobbied.

Now the lobbying is getting noisy. The New Jersey AFL-CIO is staging a "major rally" Tuesday at the construction site, and the Regional Plan Association, Tristate Transportation Campaign, and other groups are leafleting and say they'll be running advertisements in major dailies.

They have as their ally U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  LaHood already convinced a reluctant Christie to "review options," over a two-week period ending this Friday on the project's future.  The agreement came after an unusual meeting where LaHood and top staff flew to Trenton.  LaHood said Monday he'll be meeting again with Christie to "present information" gleaned in the two-week review.  No word yet on what kinds of options New Jersey and the U.S. DOT are looking at, or whether all this noise will budge the determined Christie one bit.