Governor Chris Christie Formally Kills ARC Tunnel Project

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed a new train tunnel project under the Hudson River for a second time. "This decision is final," Christies said at a news conference Wednesday morning, adding that there is no opportunity for another review.

Christie cancelled the project on October 7 for the first time, saying it would cost $2 billion to $5 billion over its $8.7 billion budget. But he agreed to reconsider the next day after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who supports the project, outlined various options to salvage it.

The two officials met again Sunday and Christie said the federal government was willing to chip in another $358 million, but that wouldn't go far enough to relieve the state of the financial burden of the overruns.

Christie said the other options on the table, including federal loans and a public-private partnership would still mean that New Jersey residents would ended up paying those overruns through fees or debt service.

Federal cost estimates range from $9.8 billion to $12.7 billion. This range does not include $775 million that the state would be required to spend to build the Portal Bridge South, an integral part of the ARC project.

Christie said what he was looking for was some other party -- the federal government, New York state or New York City -- to assume the risk of overruns.

"We are still going to have to pay for the cost of it," Christie said. "I cannot place upon the citizens of New Jersey an open-ended letter of credit."

In a statement, LaHood said: “I am extremely disappointed in Governor Christie’s decision to abandon the ARC tunnel project, which is a devastating blow to thousands of workers, millions of commuters and the state’s economic future. The governor’s decision to stop work on this project means commuters – who would have saved 45 minutes each day thanks to the ARC tunnel – will instead see no end to traffic congestion and ever-longer wait times on train platforms. Our DOT team has worked hard over the last several weeks to present Governor Christie with workable solutions to bring the ARC tunnel to life. I want to thank Senators Lautenberg and Menendez for their tireless efforts on behalf of this important project.”

Transit tunnel proponents were furious about the decision. "It wasn't about cost overruns," said Bob Yaro, President of the Regional Plan Association. "The issue for the governor is that he wanted to use the state's share of the ARC project to paper over the shortfall in the highway fund. There was another larger agenda that the governor appeared to have."

Yaro says canceling the project is a "a real tragedy for New Jersey, and for the metropolitan area, and for the country." He adds, "In the end there were no overruns that that the federal government, and the Port Authority and the state couldn't manage."

Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a statement today that read, in part: “The Governor was given a deal from the federal government on Sunday that put no extra imposition on the state of New Jersey for its obligation to the ARC Tunnel project, and the Governor refused it. It was clear from the beginning that Governor Christie planned to kill the ARC Tunnel no matter what... This is a tragic day in New Jersey’s history. Two weeks ago, Governor Christie made the biggest public policy blunder in New Jersey’s history. Today he repeated it... The Governor has put politics before performance, and it is the people of New Jersey who will pay the high price."

In Penn Station Wednesday morning, New Jersey residents seemed to share the governor's concern over the state's financial distress. "Some of our taxes in New Jersey are very high, and it's okay to invest if you know you're getting enough, but we've had increases this year," said Eunice Dickinson. "And you know what? If he has to stop it right now, then it has to be stopped right now."

Another commuter, Jim Kimball, who said he didn't vote for Christie, agreed with the governor's decision. "If I was looking to cut costs, a potential question mark is definitely the first place I'd look to start cutting."

John Brennan, a New Jersey resident who works in environmental consulting, liked the idea of the tunnel, but not if it meant going deeper into debt and not if New Jersey would bear the brunt of cost overruns. "If you go into a $5 five billion hole when you're already in a $30 billion hole, and you're already the highest-taxed state in the nation, that's too much to sacrifice."

But commuter Nancy Thomas said that killing the tunnel outright was "a big mistake," and she had a suggestion for what Christie should do: "Postpone it, not cancel it. Postpone it for a year, two years and see what the economy is next year at this time."



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Comments [15]

Hank from Flushing

NJ has the lowest state gas taxes of any state. All Gov. Christie had to do is raise the taxes on gas and he could pay for the much needed project.

I also heard that the bully Christie did not want to return to the Feds the money they already spent on the project.

Jul. 29 2012 06:32 AM

I don't know. While I am in favor of new rail access, I can certainly see Gov. Christie's point. This tunnel was meant to connect NY and NJ. Why does NJ only need to pay the fare? NY profits by having more capacity onto and off of the mainland. NJ profits by having better access to NYC. No one loses long term on this one, so why isn't the bill shared? I think the Gov. is right. I also think that the tunnel will be built, and that there will be another way to fund it.

Nov. 13 2010 10:36 PM
Jim from Tinton Falls

Governor Christie is correct in his decision and Sen Lautenberg needs to retire as he is not listening to the people of NJ

Oct. 28 2010 09:33 PM
Yanta from Bergen County

To cancel this project when thousands of construction workers have no jobs, when interest rates are very low, when region needs this tunnel to cut future pollution and congestion only shows that Gov. Christie has no vision. He focuses on short term gains which enhance his star status among his political base. The history will soon forget him.

Oct. 28 2010 05:48 PM
Bob F from Blairstown

The hell with NYC. the majority of the taxpayers do not work there. We work in NJ. We cannot afford such a debt right now. NYC was to contribute nothing.
There is still rail transportation and buses. If you do not like the existing service, then get a job in NJ.

Oct. 28 2010 03:43 AM
Giuseppe from NYC

Governor Christie has been fond to find the roots of his fiscal conservatism in his mother teaching that money did not grow on trees. However, that money would have been for something new he wanted to buy, presumably something unnecessary. I wonder if his mother would have applied the same teaching to textbooks, and encyclopedia, or some other investment in his
own future.

Oct. 28 2010 12:17 AM

A disgrace. Especially if this money will then go to the highway fund. Instead, tax gasoline to pay for the highways. Support public transit, not more private automobiles. Public transit provides the most benefit with the least environmental damage.

Oct. 27 2010 08:53 PM
Ed Ziomek from Stamford CT

Chris Christie. Hallelujah! I cannot believe I would see a politician stand up to the Federal government and say... "Hey, we are broke, and broke means broke, and your numbers are lies".

President of this God Blessed country, maybe, YES!!! Hell, yes!!!

Oct. 27 2010 08:26 PM

Way to go. This is another big dig.Only cuts commuting time for 12,000 people.Why don't the unions take half pay and if it comes in within 10% of budget they get their balance

Oct. 27 2010 06:54 PM
Carol From Summit NJ

Too bad he wasn't prepared to do the right thing and insure that the project was properly supervised and costs controlled.

He took the coward's way out.

Oct. 27 2010 05:57 PM
Xtina from NYC

Hope you like traffic jams, long commutes, and no jobs New Jersey.

Christie should pledge not to take the money and reasssign it to the bankrupt Highway Fund, as we know this is a poorly concealed scheme to pay for roads without collecting any mooney from the drivers of cars who use the roads.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul only works for so long - I guess he figures it'll work until the time he is out and running for the White House.

Oct. 27 2010 05:18 PM
Kitov from Jersey City

A 100% political decision. Gov. Christie has no objection to picking up the tab for guaranteed cost overruns to build a fake ski slope in the Meadowlands. He only objects to cost overruns when they are used to 1) build infrastructure which 2) creates union jobs and 3) enhance property values and development opportunities in Democratic-leaning areas (along the NJ rail network). His own statement pointed to another reason - the project won't be completed until he's out of office, so he personally cannot reap any political benefits from seeing the project through.

Oct. 27 2010 05:12 PM

A tunnel like this would be a huuuuge boost to NYC and the NJ.

Oct. 27 2010 04:28 PM
Nina from NY

Waoh, Go Gov. Christie, this is what the US needs, to stop building on debt. If the station were built, give them a couple of months and they'll start having delays. Better stop them now than later. Good job.

Oct. 27 2010 04:10 PM
Bevo from Driftwood, Texas

Hey, lazy union scum---there's a new sheriff in town!

Oct. 27 2010 02:52 PM

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