Christie May Reconsider Tunnel Project

Friday, October 08, 2010


A day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a permanent halt to construction of a new commuter train tunnel, he says he will "study new options." This comes following a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Trenton Friday. In a statement following the meeting Christie said, he still considers the tunnel "not financially viable."

Christie said his view that the tunnel is "not financially viable," remains "unchanged," but agreed to allow the executive director of NJ Transit to meet with members of the U.S. Department of Transportation. They will study the options to "potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project."

LaHood's office has been tight-lipped about what he could offer Christie to bring the tunnel, which would run under the Hudson River from New Jersey to Manhattan, back from the dead.   His office issued a statement that was almost identical to Christie's: "Governor Christie and I had a good discussion this afternoon, during which I presented a number of options for continuing the ARC tunnel project. We agreed to put together a small working group from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein that will review these options and provide a report to Governor Christie within two weeks."

LaHood, a former Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois, has been a big advocate of rail and tunnel projects. He's made the Obama Administration's "liveability initiative," to create denser, more transit-rich communities a high priority during his tenure.

The tunnel was to have doubled the capacity of New Jersey transit, decreasing commutes by 40 minutes, easing congestion and reducing the carbon emmissions from automobiles. 

But at a Thursday press conference in Trenton, Christie said he'd become increasingly concerned since meeting with LaHood in February, when LaHood said the federal government could not increase its $3 billion commitment to the $8.7 billion project.  Christie said FTA estimates and his own analysis showed cost overruns could go anywhere from $2 to $5 billion. "You can't make a size 10 foot fit into a size seven shoe," Christie said. "It just won't work."

But sources familiar with the discussions between Christie and the FTA dispute that, saying the FTA had not arrived at a final number for potential overruns and that the FTA was meeting with New Jersey to try and resolve this issue as recently as this week.

New Jersey's U.S senators reacted angrily to the decision. "New Jersey taxpayers are now the owners of a brand new, $600 million 'Hole To Nowhere,'" Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said in a statement.  At a press conference at Newark's Penn Station, Sen. Frank Lautenberg said the decision "was one of the biggest policy blunders in New Jersey history." 

While some New Jerseyans are applauding Christie's belt-tightening, the Regional Plan Association, a project advocate, said it would choke economic growth. Earlier this year, the RPA released a study showing New Jersey real estate values were already increasing in anticipation of tunnel construction.


Updated at 4:15 p.m.


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Comments [5]

MiddleClassWorker from Suburban, NJ

Elka, Do you realize that on an average weekday ridership on NJ Transit rails (not light rails) reaches closes to 300K? Do you really think that many people qualifies as a "select [ed] group" of train riders? I don't know where you come from, but that number sounds too high to me to be referred to as a "select[ed] group of train riders".

Oct. 08 2010 03:57 PM
Brian from Hoboken

Business follows infrastructure. This tunnel is important for everyone in the state and region. Christie wants to make NJ more biz friendy- infrastructure like this helps. As for Elka's light rail- come
to Hoboken and see that the lifht rail trains are
almost empty. Also, not everyone can afford the nearly million dollars to buy a place big enough for a family of 4 or 5 in a dense urban place like Hoboken and so we have to move to Morris
Middlesex or Bergen county.

Oct. 08 2010 01:29 PM
Yarrow from Newark, NJ

Actually the tunnel is a matter of public policy, as Lautenberg stated, the decision "was one of the biggest policy blunders in New Jersy history. "
So stating that the tunnel "is for a selected group of train riders" is completely ignoring how transporation and the resulting congestion, pollution and spending affects the "general public". Its impossible to consider that NJ's current access to NYC is sustainable, "NJ transit provides 46 million passenger trips to Penn Station New York, a staggering 150-percent increase in just the last 10 years"!
I agree that affordable multiple dwelling housing should be available near points of access to public transportation. But how does gentrification (the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents) help make this happen?
Christie's "decision" is based from a limited perspective and does not look toward the future of NJ at all.
I hope federal officials can bring him to his senses before its too late.

Oct. 08 2010 11:58 AM
RBC from Brooklyn

To Elka:

First and foremost, these trains aren't just for McMansion residents in upper income NJ enclaves. These tunnels are a CRUCIAL section of the ENTIRE Northeast corridor rail system. That's why the feds are involved with it. These tracks are used by commuters and rail travelers alike. The economic benefit these rail lines bring is infinite.

Second, this project is about NY/NJ no longer being beholden to Amtrak. The rails in and out of Penn Station belong to Amtrak - therefore if Amtrak shuts down, those rails are out of service for EVERYONE, including NJT and LIRR. There is no alternative means of transportation that could carry to volume of passengers that these rails do.

Third, this project is also about increasing the number of tracks in and out of Penn between NY and NJ. Currently there are only TWO!! One in and one out - for HUNDREDS of trains per week. This would improve service tremendously and lessen delays.

Oct. 08 2010 11:40 AM
elka from NJ

I hope the feds stay out of this. This tunnel is for a selected group of train riders. It isn't for the general public. Build some internal light rail and express lanes for the busses. Move back to the areas around NYC where there is plenty of transit 24/7. No need for this. Why subsidize McMansion living in Middlesex county? Rehab Newark and JC. Genrification, clean up and rehab the old cities. Come back and come to your senses NJites.

Oct. 08 2010 09:11 AM

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