Streams

 

Arc Tunnel

Transportation Nation

Transit Tunnel Dispute Fueled Rancor Between Christie, Obama Administration

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

NJ Governor Chris Christie (photo courtesy of NJ Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

UPDATED: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made two things perfectly clear in his announcement that he won't run for president.  "Now is not my time" Christie said, saying there was too much work for him to do in New Jersey  to leave now.   And this:  he wants to "make sure Obama is a one-termer."

That feeling may be mutual.

Late last week, New Jersey and the U.S. DOT  settled a year-long tussle over a transit tunnel that was to run under the Hudson River from New Jersey to Manhattan, a project Christie pulled the plug on last year. But bitterness and rancor remain, even as Christie bows out of his chance to take on Obama directly.

(Read down in the post for some choice words U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had for Governor Christie, in an overlooked letter LaHood wrote last April.)

Once upon a time,  governors  of both political parties did not fight with the federal DOT, which was seen a source of funds for the kinds of public works that make local officials look good -- roads, bridges, tunnels -- big projects that were seen to create jobs, make constituents happy, and, most of all, give politicians all-important ribbon-cutting opportunities.

But in 2010, Christie showed that he was perfectly willing to stop a big project literally in its tracks, to the increasing consternation of the usually amiable LaHood, himself a former Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois.

At issue was a $9 billion transit tunnel under the Hudson River, the largest new transit project in the nation. The tunnel, known as the Access to the Region's Core, or ARC tunnel, was already under construction. It was to have created an extra pathway for NJ Transit trains, which now share a tunnel with Amtrak. That tunnel is at capacity.

A year ago, Christie halted work, so he could review the project's finances. Christie said he feared the project could cost New Jerseyans billions of dollars more than projected. Big infrastructure projects do tend to run over budget -- but project supporters argued that the construction jobs it would create, along with increased business activity and rising property values along the train line, would offset any increases. That, at least, was the logic that has propelled these kinds of projects forward in the past.

When I first began calling around to federal officials and Washington insiders in the fall of 2010, there was widespread disbelief that Christie would pull the plug on the project.

Both because billions of dollars of federal money would not be coming to New Jersey (the federal government, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NJ Transit were each footing a third of the $9 billion bill), and also because no one seemed to think Christie would be willing to generate such animosity amongst federal officials whom he might need help from later.

But he was.

In fact, as Christie was publicly mulling a decision he’d already clearly made, the U.S. DOT was strenuously lobbying him (Ray LaHood himself traveled to Trenton twice to make the case).  But publicly, no one from the federal government was talking.  There were no red hot pokers from the Obama administration side.

Just how angry Ray LaHood became only began to come out as the tunnel was being buried –- literally, as workers began throwing dirt back into the hole after the project had been killed (a second time, as it happened, since Christie, in response to LaHood's treatises, gave the project a temporary reprieve.)

"Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing," LaHood wrote in an op-ed in the Newark Star Ledger the day after the project died. "Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole."

"Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere."

But even though the project was dead, the bitterness only seemed to escalate.  The U.S. DOT demanded that New Jersey pay back $271 million in funds already spent on the project, which Christie refused to do. Characteristically pugnacious, Christie hired the well-connected law and lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, to argue his case in Washington.

Periodically, the DOT would release stats on how interest and penalties were accruing on the project.

Privately, Ray LaHood was getting more and more irate. In a letter (pdf) to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in April, LaHood wrote:

"In February 2010, Governor Christie sat in my office and expressed his full commitment to the completion of the ARC project. In March of 2010, when several news stories called Governor Christie’s commitment to the completion of the ARC project into question, I asked the Governor to restate that commitment in writing. He did so in a letter to me dated April 6, 2010,”

And, then essentially, LaHood called Christie a liar. “The possibility that this project’s cost could run [as high as $12 billion] was first shared with New Jersey Transit as far back as August 2008. Any notion that the potential for cost growth constituted new and emergent information when the Governor made his decision is simply not accurate.”

LaHood held to his position that he would not relent on his demand that Christie pay back the $271 million. By last week, with interest and penalties, the bill had grown to $274 million.  But New Jersey’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, had been arguing that New Jersey could pay a lesser amount and at the same time agree to direct $128 million for transit projects in New Jersey.

On Friday the U.S. DOT announced that it had agreed to settle the case.  It would accept $95 million from New Jersey, plus the $128 commitment for transit spending.

But Christie tossed into his statement a claim that the $95 million would be offset by $100 million in insurance premium refunds. “First I’m hearing of that,” shot back one federal official when asked.

The implication –- and Christie said as much in his statement –- was that the settlement contains “not one additional dollar of New Jersey taxpayer money.”

But that’s not exactly right.  If Christie had gotten his way, and paid zero to the federal government, presumably New Jersey would have been able to pocket the $100 million in insurance premium refunds, not use it to offset a $95 million payment.

Still, though, Christie was able to create the impression he’d boxed his opponent into a corner, again.

That’s a stance we’ll likely see much of from Christie in the next year -- whether he's a candidate for president or not

 

 

 

 

Read More

Comments [5]

Transportation Nation

NJ to Pay One-Third of Original Bill in ARC Tunnel Settlement

Friday, September 30, 2011

New Jersey has agreed to pay the federal government $95 million for a never-built transit tunnel under the Hudson River. The U.S. Department of Transportation and  NJ Governor Chris Christie's administration have been engaged in a bitter dispute over $271 million in federal funds that New Jersey had already spent on the tunnel when Governor Christie pulled the plug on the project a year ago, citing a fear of cost overruns on the $9 billion project.

Under the terms of the deal, New Jersey has also promised to direct $128 million of the money to transit projects approved by the DOT. That money was already allocated for New Jersey, but could, in theory have gone to other projects. This is nearly identical to a deal offered by the DOT in December.

Construction on the he so-called "Access to the Region's Core" -- or ARC -- began during the administration of Christie's predecessor, Governor Jon Corzine.  The tunnel, which would have been completed in five year's time, would have doubled transit capacity for commuter trains going from New Jersey to Manhattan.

Christie had initially said he was in favor of the project, but last fall he changed his mind, saying he feared the project would go way over budget.

This had been a marquee project for the U.S. Department of Transportation -- it was the biggest transit expansion underway in the nation.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood strenuously fought to save the project, traveling to Trenton and offering a number of sweeteners.

But Christie was unpersuaded, and workers began filling in the hole that had been dug last fall.

The bitterness over the tunnel's cancellation spilled over into a dispute about whether New Jersey would have to pay back funds it had already spent, with LaHood insisting that New Jersey pay back all the money, plus penalties and interest. Christie's administration hired the influential lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, at a cost of about $1 million, to negotiate the deal.

Today's settlement represents about a third of what the federal government initially said NJ owed. Governor Christie's office said the full amount would be covered by insurance on the project.

New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez -- both Democrats and vocal critics of the project's cancellation -- praised today's decision nonetheless, saying they didn't want New Jersey to have to pay nearly $300 million to the federal government for an unrealized project.

Tom Wright, Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association, which had worked on the ARC tunnel for 20 years, said, at the end of the day, he too approved of the decision. "You don't want big projects to be canceled with no repercussions," he said in a phone interview. "But at the end of the day you want that money for transit projects going forward."

Read More

Comment

WNYC News

New Jersey, Feds Agree on $95 Million Payment for Cancelled Tunnel

Friday, September 30, 2011

WNYC

New Jersey has agreed to pay the federal government $95 million for a never-built transit tunnel under the Hudson River.  The U.S. Department of Transportation and Governor Chris Christie's administration have been engaged in a bitter dispute over $271 million that New Jersey had already spent on the tunnel when Governor Christie pulled the plug on the project a year ago, citing a fear of cost overruns on the $9 billion project.

Comment

Transportation Nation

BREAKING: ARC Tunnel Settlement Reached -- OFFICIAL STATEMENTS

Friday, September 30, 2011

This just in from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there is an ARC tunnel settlement. The federal government had maintained that New Jersey owed $271 million for money spent on the now-cancelled Access to the Region's Core Tunnel project that would have expanded rail access between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station. As recently as this morning, the feds had said that NJ owed an additional $2.6 million in interest on that money.

We'll have reactions and analysis coming in a bit. Here are the official statements.

Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that he has signed an agreement with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the state to reimburse the federal government $95 million for money that was supposed to be spent building the ARC Tunnel. New Jersey terminated the project and the Department has been seeking repayment of $271 million in federal dollars spent by the state on the project.

The $95 million settlement will permit DOT to recover all of the $51 million in New Starts money provided to New Jersey for the ARC Project, so that those funds can be made available to other communities for public transit projects.  This amount also recovers approximately 50 percent of the funds provided to New Jersey under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and this money will be returned to the United States Treasury.  In addition to the cash payment amount, New Jersey will be required under the terms of the settlement agreement to spend more than $128 million in CMAQ program funds on transit-related projects that have been reviewed and approved by DOT.

“We appreciate the support and encouragement of Senators Lautenberg and Menendez in reaching an agreement that is good for the taxpayers of New Jersey, but also helps to improve infrastructure in the state,” Secretary LaHood said. “I thank the governor and his legal team for reaching this agreement.”

 

Here's the statement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

“I am pleased to announce that we have negotiated a good-faith settlement with the Federal Transportation Administration that puts the interests of New Jersey taxpayers first by substantially reducing the federal government’s original demand. The 5-year payment schedule on a $95 million settlement – which contains not one additional dollar of New Jersey taxpayer money – would be offset by more than $100 million in insurance premium refunds. This represents a fraction of the federal government’s initial claim and won’t cost New Jerseyans any additional money, which would otherwise go to infrastructure improvements. I want to thank U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and his staff for their good-faith efforts in working with us and putting the interest of New Jersey taxpayers ahead of politics. I also want to thank New Jersey Transit and Executive Director Jim Weinstein for their commitment to working toward this settlement.”

 

NJ's Senate delegation has also weighed in. A joint statement reads:

Today's agreement builds on a deal reached in December between DOT and Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that New Jersey would not have to ultimately pay back $128 million of the total $271 million debt. Of the remaining $143 million, thanks to pressure from Senators Lautenberg and Menendez - as well as members of the state's House delegation, New Jersey's liability will be reduced to $95 million under this deal.

"I thank Transportation Secretary LaHood for honoring our initial agreement to reduce New Jersey's liability by $128 million off the bat. The further reduction in the state's liability will take pressure off New Jersey taxpayers as well," Lautenberg said. "The Governor's decision to kill the ARC tunnel project will hurt New Jersey in the long-term, but we were happy to work with the Department of Transportation to help reduce the costs of this mistake."

"While I remain disappointed that the state abandoned this job-creating project for which we fought so hard to fund, I'm thankful to Secretary LaHood for working to resolve this dispute in a way that best protects our taxpayers," Menendez said.

 

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Now Owes Interest on Cancelled ARC Tunnel Debt, Maine Speed Limit 75 on One Road, and Lightning Zaps LIRR

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:

DC's paratransit system battles financial woes, unhappy passengers. (Link)

NYC ramping up installation of accessible pedestrian crosswalk signals. (Link)

A Houston official tries to sell bike commuting in a car-centric city. (Link)

The ARC tunnel groundbreaking, during happier times -- and under another governor (photo courtesy of Tri State Transportation Campaign)

$2.6 million in interest was added to the $274 million bill New Jersey owes the federal government after killing the ARC tunnel. (AP via NJ.com)

Speaking of ARC: the enmity between New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, and NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg stems from the tunnel's cancellation. (NY Times)

Virginia is withholding millions in transit funds until it gets seats on local transit boards. (Washington Post)

As the Port Authority's head prepares to move on, the agency reviews its project list -- and prepares to make some tough decisions. (Wall Street Journal)

On one lone highway in Maine, the speed limit is now 75. (Marketplace)

Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, wants to privatize Amtrak. (The Hill)

Three Miami police officers on bicycle patrol were hit by an SUV. (Miami Herald)

A lightning strike knocked out Long Island Rail Road service yesterday. (WNYC)

NYC subway: more platforms slated for cell service. (NY Post)

Tweet of the day, via Azi Paybarah: "price of medallion is about $650K today, which shows you 'how lucrative it is to drive a cab' said @mikebloomberg."

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

NJ's ARC Tunnel Money Redirected

Thursday, September 08, 2011

(Photo by William Hartz via Flickr)

Money that was supposed to go to New Jersey's canceled ARC trans-Hudson transit tunnel has officially been redirected to the state transportation trust fund.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority voted Wednesday to pay money -- initially promised to the ARC tunnel -- to the state Department of Transportation instead.

The specifics are laid out in a memo to NJTA executive director Veronica Hakim from Donna Manuelli, the state's chief financial officer. Manuelli wrote she wanted to "take all necessary steps to terminate the Authroity's agreement with New Jersey Transit regarding the canceled ARC Tunnel project." (Read the funding agreement memo; pdf.)

Governor Christie killed the ARC Tunnel project last year, saying it was too expensive and he feared costs would spiral out of control. He  said in January that he planned to put the NJTA's ARC money toward the state's ailing transportation trust fund, so yesterday's NJTA vote didn't come as a surprise.

The NJTA collects tolls on the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway ($952 million in 2010), and it had originally pledged $1.25 billion to the ARC tunnel project.

It's unknown at this time where that money will go. Tim Greeley, a spokesman for the NJ DOT, said the state legislature makes decisions about the capital transportation budget in the spring. New Jersey's capital construction budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 has already been set.

Though not unexpected, NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg, long a proponent of a tunnel, was piqued by the move. “This toll revenue was supposed to be used to build a desperately needed trans-Hudson tunnel for New Jersey commuters,” he said in a statement.  “Using this money as a slush fund for other transportation projects is a disservice to New Jersey residents facing congestion on our roads and seeking access to more jobs and more trains in and out of New York.”

New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund finances the annual capital program of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT. The lion's share of its revenue comes from the state's gas tax, which is the third lowest in the nation. Governor Christie has said repeatedly he will not raise the gas tax.

 

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Schumer: Use ARC Tunnel $ To Finish Digging Rail Tunnel Under East River

Monday, June 20, 2011

East Side Access would bring Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Station through a tunnel under the East River at 63rd Street and then beneath Park Avenue.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says New Jersey's transportation loss should be Long Island's gain.

The Senator is supporting a $2.2 billion low-interest loan from the federal government to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The money was originally earmarked for a commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River that Governor Chris Christie killed in October. Schumer says it should now go to finishing East Side Access, a project connecting Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Station through tunnels beneath the East River. Long Island Railroad is the nation's largest commuter line.

East Side Access is supposed to be done by 2016, but is only funded through the end of the year. The project is designed to speed up trips for about 160,000 riders from Long Island to Manhattan's East Side by as much as 30 to 40 minutes.

More than $5 billion in state and federal funds have already been spent on the new rail connection, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the U.S. But East Side Access is still facing a $2.2 billion shortfall.

The MTA applied for the loan in late April to the Federal Railroad Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Spokesman Aaron Donovan said the authority is "in discussions with the U.S. DOT as part of the application process but we don't have an estimate on when we'll hear back."

U.S. DOT spokeswoman Olivia Alair said "We do not have comment on this today."

Most Long Island Railroad trains cross under Manhattan to arrive at Penn Station on the West Side, adding to congestion at that station and forcing commuters with jobs on the East Side to double back by bus or subway. Schumer said eliminating that bottleneck and adding flexibility to the system will "boost New York as the economic engine of the region."

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

ARC Tunnel: NJ's Legal Fees and Interest Mounting

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The cost of New Jersey’s fight with the federal government over a bill for the canceled trans-Hudson tunnel project is mounting

The US Department of Transportation wants NJ Transit to return $271 million it gave the state for the ARC tunnel.

The digging had been underway for a year when Governor Christie killed the project last autumn out of what he said were concerns about potential cost overruns. When the Federal Transit Administration sent a bill, NJ Transit hired a DC law firm.

So far, New Jersey has spent about a million dollars in legal fees on the battle. Officials said the state doesn't have a set limit on legal costs. Meanwhile, interest on the $271 million debt -- which the feds say the state is also responsible for --  is accruing at 1%, or about $225,000 a month.

NJ Transit spokesman Paul Wyckoff said that “talks between parties are continuing.” He added: “Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, and taxpayers deserve the very best effort we can provide them.”

The US DOT said that there was no new update, and Governor Christie's office did not respond to requests for comments.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Capital Bikeshare May Expand to VA, & NJ's ARC Tunnel Bill 225K A Month In Interest Alone

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

DC's Capital Bikeshare may expand to Alexandria. (WAMU)

Downtown Miami may be getting a pedestrian-friendly redesign. (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood  blogs about the new VW plant in Tennessee, and intriguingly incorporates (but doesn't explain) a photo with a mini Darth Vader. (Fast Lane)

(photo from Fast Lane/US DOT)

Plus: the transpo secretary tries one more time today to broker an agreement about the Dulles Metrorail link. (Washington Post)

Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has landed a job with the firm that helped negotiate Chicago's parking meter deal. (NBC Chicago)

NJ is racking up $225,000 a month in interest alone on its ARC tunnel bill as it battles the federal government over repayment. (NJ.com)

Meanwhile, NJ Governor Christie took a state police helicopter to his son's baseball game. (NJ.com)

Will transit-oriented development finally come to New Carrollton, Maryland? (New York Times)

High-speed rail-rejecting Florida governor Rick Scott is becoming "wildly unpopular." (Politico)

The Bay Citizen has updated their bike accident tracker, which now has five years of data. (Bay Citizen)
Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Schumer Caught on Tape: Xanadu Mall Money Should Have Gone to ARC

Monday, May 09, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (left) and Senators Charles Schumer and Frank Lautenberg (far right) (Photo: Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

WNYC's Jim O'Grady caught this exchange on tape this morning as pols were gathering at Ray LaHood's high speed rail presser at New York's Penn Station -- (Transportation Nation)

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, NYC MTA Chair Jay Walder, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chief Chris Ward, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

Schumer: Hey, good to see you!  Mr. Walder, Mr. Secretary, how are you? Chris!

Ward: Senator!

Schumer: How we doing on the, um, Xanadu? I'm very interested in seeing (inaudible) teasing her, and I said the money should have gone to the ARC.

[Schumer was referring to NJ Governor Chris Christie's decision last week to put hundreds of million of dollars of public funding behind a private mall project -- after killing a $9 billion transit tunnel under the Hudson last fall.]

Lautenberg: Yeah well, there wasn't --

Schumer: Didn't they put state money into Xanadu?

Lautenberg:  No. (Inaudible) We're doing good and we're on a mic, so I, uh -- do not feel free to express yourself.  Our Governor is not here, I take it.

Schumer: No.

[The funding is, strictly speaking, Tax Increment Financing,  or TIF meaning sales tax revenue goes straight to finance the project. So it's accurate to say its not state funding -- on the other hand, sales tax would ordinarily go to funding all of a state's needs, just not necessarily building a private mall.]

Lautenberg: He was not invited. (Inaudible) That's why I shut the microphone down.

Lautenberg: [To LaHood, a former Republican Congress member from Peoria] You -- you're the best thing that happened. First of all -- when they said it was going to be a Republican taking this job, I thought we had a Democrat who later on thought he was a Republican.

Schumer: No, he gets along with everybody. You know who pushed for him? Rahm Emanuel.

LaHood: He did. Are we ready?

[Schumer was also recently caught chatting with aides before a conference call -- the New York Times story on that is here.]

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Christie Says He Won't Repay ARC $, Taxi of Tomorrow Winner To Be Unveiled, and DC Bikers Battle Rough Roads

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Christie said he won't repay ARC money: the NJ gov said the $271 million in federal funds that had been designated for the ARC tunnel “is not money that should be paid back to the federal government.” His decision may cost the state $52,000 a week in interest. No word yet on his next move. (Bloomberg)

The winning automaker in New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow" contest will be unveiled soon. (WNYC)

Queens residents and politicians are fed up with New York's #7 subway line, which has had 106 service disruptions since January. (Queens Courier)

Rep. John Mica is worried that Osama bin Laden supporters might target America's transit systems. (The Hill)

The Netherlands has sent three experts on “cycling as transportation’’ to Miami to help figure out how to make that city more bike-friendly. (McClatchy; hat tip to Good)

DC-area bicyclists not only battle cars, but the design of the roads. (WAMU)

Why yes, I would like to build a bicycle that also doubles as a pencil. (Instructables)

Pencil Bike (photo courtesy of instructables.com)

Toyota has sparked a controversy in Brazil for attempting to legally bar a media outlet that published spy shots of a new Corolla from ever mentioning the Toyota brand name again. (Jalopnik)

What happens to the neighborhood when a Borders disappears? Chicago wants to encourage smaller businesses, but parking remains a perpetual concern. (WBEZ)

Honda is recalling hundreds of thousands of vehicles over airbag concerns. (Detroit News)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--DC's bikeshare gets a boost from a rally held in the wake of bin Laden's death (link)

--as gas prices rise, so does bus ridership (link)

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

DOT vs NJ Over ARC Tunnel Money - Documents

Friday, April 29, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In a "final agency determination," the Federal Transit Administration today told  New Jersey the state has to pay back the full $271 million NJ spent of federal money digging out the beginning of  the ARC transit tunnel  under the Hudson River.  NJ Gov. Chris Christie canceled the project in October, halting the boring, and filling in the hole -- after which US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood demanded the money back.

NJ filed paperwork contesting the bill in January and has hired a well known Washington law firm to fight it as well.   As of March, the Newark Star-Ledger reported, NJ Transit had already paid a third of a million dollars  in legal bills.

It had seemed possible that New Jersey would only be asked to pay half the $271 million in late January.

But now, LaHood is sticking to his guns, telling Christie he has to pay back all the money.  Christie is expected to continue to resist paying for the ARC tunnel.

Catch up on our past coverage of the money fight here.

Here's the response to the decision-posted below-from Kevin Robert, a spokesman for Governor Christie:

"We disagree with the FTA’s conclusion and its continued efforts to bill New Jersey taxpayers for completed work that will be of substantial value to future transportation projects not just in New Jersey, but in the Northeast corridor. Furthermore, New Jersey was unable to move forward with the ARC project for reasons beyond the State’s control -- billions of dollars in unaccounted for cost-overruns and re-estimates of project costs late in the process only continued to increase New Jersey’s already heavy financial burden. For now, we will review the decision before determining next steps moving forward."

Here's the full 52 page final decision of the Federal Transit Administration on the debt collection action, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Access to the Region's Core Project (ARC). (PDF)

And the two page letter from Transportation Secretary to NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg, (Dem.), a supporter of the ARC project.

Dot Arc Repayment

Lautenberg also released this statement.

SENATORS LAUTENBERG AND MENENDEZ STATEMENT ON ARC REPAYMENT DECISION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released a statement today following the U.S. Department of Transportation decision that the State of New Jersey must repay the full $271 million in federal funding spent on the cancelled Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel.

“This is an unfortunate situation.  We worked hard to get the parties to negotiate a fair resolution of this conflict.  However the state's outside lawyers pursued an all or nothing approach, which brings substantial risk to New Jersey taxpayers.  Given the high stakes involved in this matter, we hope the state's approach is ultimately successful,” the Senators said.

Following Governor Christie’s decision to cancel the trans-Hudson tunnel project, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez called on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to ease the financial impact on the State.  In response to the Senators’ efforts, Secretary LaHood agreed that if the state repaid $271 million, the federal government would return nearly half the money by placing $128 million in New Jersey’s Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) account for mass transit and emission reductions projects. However, the Governor’s legal team pursued a different course.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Governor Christie Giving Hundreds of Millions in NJ $$ to Failed Mall Project

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rendering of the now renamed -- and re-funded -- "Xanadu" mail

Our colleague Bob Hennelly over at WNYC has a story reporting that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who killed an already-in-progress $9 billion transit tunnel under the Hudson River, citing fears of cost overruns, is poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in New Jersey funds on a thus far failed mall project.

Also don't miss Bob's terrific, earlier investigative report (also here, co-reported with Michael Grabell of ProPublica) on the so-called "Xanadu" project, documenting how the Port Authority's Board (many of whom had links to the project) approved $200 million for a rail link to the mall.   But as Bob reports, planners expect that most people will still drive to the mall, which will have an energy-guzzling year-round indoor ski-slope, among other services.  That is, if it's completed -- the project has so far stymied four governors and more developers than you can count.

Bob writes of the current developments:

"The Christie Administration is in the final stages of closing a deal with a new developer to revive the moribund Xanadu retail and entertainment complex in the Meadowlands.

Read More

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Housing Near Public Transport More Energy Efficient, Mexican Trucks Coming to US Roads, and NY Bike Registration Legislation Withdrawn

Friday, March 04, 2011

An EPA report says housing near public transportation uses less energy than homes in the suburbs, even Energy Star-rated ones. (USA Today)

Politifact fact-checks Florida's high-speed rail debate.

Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker is withdrawing his proposed legislation requiring bicycles to be registered. (NY Daily News)

The Bicing story: the video below shows the impact that Barcelona's bike share program has made on city streets.

NJ Governor Chris Christie says: "I’m ready to invest in mass transit between New Jersey and New York--I’m just not willing to be fleeced for it" -- and adds that two recent ideas for a trans-Hudson tunnel - extending the #7 and the "Gateway" tunnel - are better projects for the state than the ARC tunnel was. (Star-Ledger)

President Obama and Mexican President Calderon have agreed to let Mexican trucks on US highways (Marketplace).  What does that mean for American truckers? (The Takeaway)

The NY Daily News wants NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to stick to dedicated bus lanes -- and only dedicated bus lanes -- on 34th Street.

Lose something in a NYC taxi? There's an app for that! (NY1)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Florida Governor Rick Scott are scheduled to talk about high-speed rail this morning. The NYC DOT's 34th Street redesign will itself be redesigned.  The DC chapter of the ACLU wants people who have had their bags searched on the Metro to come forward and help them sue WMATA. And the House voted to extend the nation's surface transportation law.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

WNYC News

Florida High Speed Rail Line Dies a Second Death

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WNYC

For the second time in four months, a governor is returning billions of dollars to the federal government for a major infrastructure project.  Like Governor Chris Christie before him, Florida Governor Rick Scott is sticking to his decision to kill the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail, the Mayor of Tampa said.

Comments [4]

Transportation Nation

NJ to Feds: We May Not Have Agreed About ARC Tunnel, But We Agree We Shouldn't Have To Pay

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey politicians might not have agreed about the ARC tunnel -- but when it comes to paying back the federal government $271 million in ARC money, they present a united front ... against paying, that is.

Yesterday, Governor Christie's office released a copy of a letter that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation --13 congressmen (yes, the entire delegation is male) plus the two senators -- sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concern that "forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel."

New Jersey has been pursuing legal action to avoid repaying the Federal Transit Administration $271 million that the agency billed the state for work on the ARC tunnel project. This letter appears to be the latest attempt by the state to try to get off the hook for the bill.

We reached out to the DOT for comment, wondering:  what triggered this letter? Were there discussions afoot about repurposing that money for a new iteration of a Trans-Hudson tunnel -- like the Gateway Tunnel or extending the #7 subway? The DOT says they have "no update."

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: New Trans-Hudson Tunnel To Be Announced Today; Disabled DC Residents To See Fare Hike; Congestion Pricing Opponents Fret About Its Comeback,

Monday, February 07, 2011

Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)

Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)

A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."

More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)

South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)

Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)

Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)

A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."

Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)

New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.

Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)

And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ.  Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Son of ARC? NJ, Amtrak To Announce Plans TODAY for New Version of Trans-Hudson Tunnel

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  It’s not ARC 2 but it’s awfully familiar.

Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.

Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.

Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.

And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.

A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.

Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.

An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.

The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.

Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?

What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.

Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?

Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?

And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?

These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.

Read More

Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

City Finally Puts $$ Behind Subway to New Jersey

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Call it the return of the Secaucus 7. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has finally put some muscle into his proposal to extend the number 7 subway train under the Hudson River to New Jersey, making it the first NYC subway train to go to another state.  It would be a substitute for the NJ Transit commuter tunnel, known as the ARC, or Access to the Region's Core, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed last fall.

This week, Mayor Bloomberg's Economic Development Corporation voted to put a quarter of a million dollars into a three-month feasibility study of the tunnel.  The contract for the study goes to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major engineering firm that had been working on the ARC tunnel.

The firm is tasked with assessing demand and cost -- which Mayor Bloomberg, without any engineering studies behind him -- has said would be roughly half that of the ARC tunnel.

The head of the MTA, Jay Walder, has been genial about the project, but the agency is already struggling to pay for capital costs for its current system, and this week learned it would be faced with another $100 million in cuts from the state budget.  Bloomberg does not control the MTA -- NY Governor Andrew Cuomo does -- though Bloomberg does have representation on the MTA board.

When the city was pushing construction of a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, Bloomberg succeed in gaining MTA approval for extension of the #7 train to the far West Side of Manhattan by promising to foot the $2 billion in construction costs.  But that was during flusher times, when neither the MTA nor the city was broke.

It's unclear whether the federal government's investment of $3 billion, lost when the ARC tunnel died, could be applied towards this project, or whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would contribute funds, as it did to the ARC.

Here's the EDC documentation on the contract:

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: TX Transpo $ "in Crisis," Car Poolers Disappear, and How To Plow Your Driveway...With Your Bike

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Where are the car poolers? The percentage of workers who car-pool has dropped by almost half since 1980. (New York Times)

More ARC tunnel casualties: a week before Governor Christie froze construction on the ARC Tunnel, the Port Authority paid $95.5 million to rent a Manhattan waterfront parcel officials said was critical to the commuter-rail project. (NJ Record)   Also: Stewart International Airport was supposed to be the long-sought fourth major airport to serve the New York metropolitan area. But the lack of a rail link has made its future unclear. (NY Times)

The chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee says that transportation funding in that state is in "a crisis." (AP via the Houston Chronicle)

Calling it "another arrow in our automotive safety quiver," Ray LaHood visits a company that's working on an alcohol-detection prototype that uses automatic sensors to instantly gauge a driver's fitness to be on the road. (AP via NPR)

Officials in Alaska say that climate change is hurting that state's infrastructure. (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

Rahm Emanuel wants to expand Chicago's bike network. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Sources say NY Governor Cuomo will propose a reduction in MTA funding - but he doesn't want to trigger an increase in what riders pay to ride the subway, buses and commuter trains. (NY Daily News)

Despite growing tea party opposition to high-speed train proposals, Republican Bill Shuster, the new chair of the House railroad subcommittee, told a group of New England political leaders that he supports the proposed $1 billion New Haven-to-Springfield line, envisioning it as part of a high-speed rail network that would link Boston, Montreal, Manhattan, Albany and Washington, D.C. (Hartford Courant)

NYC manufacturer for NYC bike share? Ever since New York City started asking for proposals for a citywide bike-share program in November, a small bike factory in Queens has been trying to get noticed. "A contract for 10,000 or more bikes for New York City's program would be a huge boost for the small company, and would mean hiring more welders, painters, assemblers and packers for the Queens plant." But can they compete against BIXI? (Crain's NY Business)

What counts as an alternative form of transportation at Portland State University? The car. (OregonLive.com)

How to plow your driveway...with your bike. (Gothamist)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: DC bike sharing: it's not just for tourists. The NY State Senate majority leader made some enigmatic comments about transportation funding. And over a dozen members of Congress descended upon Grand Central to talk about high-speed rail in the Northeast.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment