Streams

New ARC Estimates Embolden Christie

Friday, October 22, 2010 - 07:14 PM

(New York -- Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) Governor Chris Christie is taking new federal estimates of the Hudson River train tunnel as confirmation the project’s way off budget.

“Secretary LaHood confirmed today what we knew two weeks ago,” Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, said in an e-mail. “The ARC Tunnel project is over budget and puts New Jersey taxpayers at risk of being saddled with billions of dollars in added costs.”

LaHood earlier today released revised federal estimates that put the likely cost for the Access to the Region’s Core Tunnel between $9.775 billion to $12.708 billion.

That’s $1 billion to $4 billion over the $8.7 budget for the project.

That’s still a little shy of Christie’s contention, as voiced earlier this week that the tunnel is “running $2 to $5 billion over its original budgeted estimate.”

(Christie’s office says he is counting the $775 million needed to redo the Portal Bridge, a necessary component. Still, the bridge was never included in the $8.7 billion estimate.)

But it’s pretty close.

LaHood’s statement though emphasized the low end of that range.

“DOT is committed to working together through the life of the project to keep costs down to the lowest estimate,” he said.

Christie, meanwhile, is emphasizing the high end.

“Critics who seem to be using the moment for political advantage need to answer the question that remains today and was brought into focus by Secretary LaHood: how would they pay for potentially billions of dollars in cost overruns?” his press secretary said.

Still, Christie’s expected to spend this weekend studying recommendations from the federal and state working group that was set up two weeks ago.

“We will let everyone know of any public announcement as soon as we schedule one,” his press secretary said.

Drewniak’s full statement:

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary LaHood confirmed today what we knew two weeks ago – the ARC Tunnel project is over budget and puts New Jersey taxpayers at risk of being saddled with billions of dollars in added costs.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the newly estimated cost of the ARC project ranges from $9.775 billion to $12.708 billion.  In August, federal transportation officials provided New Jersey Transit with cost estimates for the project ranging from $10.88 billion to $13.7 billion.  Both the August and the currently revised ranges of estimated costs do not include the $775 million New Jersey expense of building a new bridge needed for the sole purpose of creating a new connection from the Northeast Corridor line to the ARC tunnel.

Therefore, based on today’s confirmation from Secretary LaHood, the total  project cost ranges from $10.55 billion to $13.475 billion (based on the August federal data, total project cost ranged from  $11.665 billion to $14.475 billion).

The hurdle remains unchanged.  Governor Christie continues to recognize the need and advantages of expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York.  But as Governor Christie has repeatedly stated, he is not willing to saddle New Jersey taxpayers with a public works project with such a large, indeterminate cost overrun projection with no way to fund it.  Critics who seem to be using the moment for political advantage need to answer the question that remains today and was brought into focus by Secretary LaHood: how would they pay for potentially billions of dollars in cost overruns?

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