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Chris Christie

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)

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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)

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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.

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WNYC News

Will the Heroes Behind Mall of America Rescue NJ's Xanadu?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

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.

An official close to the deal says the state could provide as much as $400 million dollars in economic development bonds to help the developer complete the $2 billion project. Xanadu was supposed to open before the recession but stalled because of management issues and the economy.

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It's A Free Country ®

Billions in Ed Funds Up For Vote in NJ

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Across the state of New Jersey, 538 local school districts submit their budgets to voters for their approval. Also on the ballot are almost 2,000 local board of education seats.

This will be the first time that New Jersey voters get to weigh in on local school budgets since Trenton imposed a two percent cap on the local property taxes that fund them. More than 450 of the districts are at or below the two percent cap.

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It's A Free Country ®

Property Tax Cap Leads to Stark Choice in New Jersey Town

Monday, April 25, 2011

If you want to whip an audience into a frenzy in New Jersey, bring up property taxes.

Within five minutes of greeting the crowd at a town hall last week, Governor Chris Christie landed on the surefire crowd-pleaser, taking credit early for the two-percent property tax cap he signed last July.

“People said it would work. Now the early returns are in,” Christie told a town hall in Jackson, New Jersey last week. Out of 566 towns in New Jersey, just 14 opted to ask voters to approve a higher rate. That’s the rightful place for the decision, he told the friendly audience at a retirement community in Jackson, New Jersey.   

“I want to put the power in your hands to make that decision, take it out of the hands of politicians that have screwed this up so badly over the past thirty years that we’re in the spot we’re in," he said.

Christie speech went on to chastise the "do-nothing" legislature, in contrast to his "reform agenda."

But the story is a little more complicated in Brick Township, along the Jersey Shore. It's one of the 14 towns asking for more than two percent higher taxes. It's asking residents to approve a budget that exceeds it by $8 million, the biggest increase of all the towns.

It’s a big ask, and the town is giving residents a stark choice: pay the higher taxes, or the town will stop collecting your trash.

The question goes right at the heart of the budget fights being fought in towns across the country. Resentful taxpayers feeling exploited and angry after year after year of increases, while the local unions have their backs up after Wisconsin and Governor Christie’s persistent hammering. A referendum vote on Wednesday is forcing residents to pick a side, and some feel boxed in by a cap that was supposed to lighten their load.

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It's A Free Country ®

In Newark, Zuckerberg School Money Sparks First Fallout

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The real job here is for [Mayor Corey] Booker to be a Geronimo and convince people that he's not just going to apply what Zuckerberg wants him to do; that he's out there, he's listening to parents, that he wants to get their feedback and doesn't want to plow through reforms already thought out in his head or Christie's head.

Barbara Martinez, The Wall Street Journal, reporter covering public education, on The Brian Lehrer Show

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Transportation Nation

How Much High Speed Rail will $2.4 Billion Buy?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) It should be more fun to give away billions of dollars for rail. One of the happiest things a politician gets to do, after all, is fork over cash for transportation projects. All those gold shovels, ribbon cuttings, and bridge-naming ceremonies! And, one could argue, President Barack Obama and SecretaryRay LaHood should feel triply blessed. With today’s politics being what they are, they get to dole out money more than once!

But there’s something of a deflated mood around the bids that came in this week for the $2.4 billion in High Speed Rail funds that Florida rejected in February. The money seems a little tainted, perhaps, and politically heavy. It’s unseemly to celebrate over such federal largess when Washington is on the verge of a shutdown and budget negotiators are contemplating cutting vital programs. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott, elected as a budget hawks, decided the safe bet was to show restraint and send back big fat slices of transportation pie. By doing so, they left more for everyone else—but they also made the indulgence more fraught. These are hungry times, though, and money won’t sit around long. By Monday, twenty four states, plus Washington D.C. and Amtrak, had bid for pieces of Florida’s pie.

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What the Administration and rail boosters lost in the Florida debacle—a truly high-speed segment with right-of-way secured and private investors in line, that could have been built in the visible future (the next Presidential term, for instance)—will not be gained back by anything proposed Monday. Among the list of projects there is no item that will similarly turn a rail-less corridor into a futuristic proof-of-concept. The speeds mentioned are all easily imaginable by anyone with a decent car. Without a confidence in messaging that has so far eluded the Administration when it comes to transportation, it will be hard to sell this reapportionment as anything earth-shattering, or even (literally)  ground-breaking.

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It's A Free Country ®

Christie Crashes Redistricting Party

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This past weekend, Governor Chris Chrsitie's spontaneous appearance at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, and his reported presence in the marathon closed-door sessions of the Apportionment Commission, had panel Democrats sputtering.

-- Bob Hennelly

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It's A Free Country ®

More NJ Finger Pointing About High Taxes

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WNYC

The average tax bill for property owners in New Jersey went up $7,576 - or 4.1 percent - in 2010, despite Gov. Chris Christie promise to lower local taxes. 

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It's A Free Country ®

The Local Politics of Closing Nuclear Power Plants

Monday, March 14, 2011

While nuclear power has enjoyed a resurgence of bipartisan support in Washington — like in this 2009 op-ed from Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) — the local politics around nuclear energy have remained charged. In both New Jersey and New York, leaders have been looking for exit plans for their decades-old nuclear plants.

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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.

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WNYC News

Thousands Rally for Union Protections in Trenton

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More than 4,000 New Jersey public workers cheerfully sang "Solidarity Forever" despite a driving cold rain on Friday.

AFL-CIO National President Richard Trumka linked the current battle in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights with what he said was Governor Chris Christie's combative approach to dealing with  New Jersey public employees.

"It's time to shake things up a little bit," bellowed Trumka. "You let them know that an attack against teachers or firefighters or nurses is an attack against all workers in New Jersey."

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It's A Free Country ®

The Mix: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's A Free Country's The Mix, where we take some of the notable clips and other voices found on WNYC this week and mix 'em up. Voices are in bold, connections are in italics.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Florida High Speed Rail, like ARC Tunnel, Dead Again

Thursday, February 24, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  UPDATED WITH US DOT COMMENTS: Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott is sticking to his decision to kill the Tampa to Orlando high speed rail.

Scott's decision is a major setback to President Obama's goal, put forward in his state of the union, to link eighty percent of Americans to high speed rail within 25 years.

In an unusually sharply worded statement, U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Olivia Alair said “The U.S. Department of Transportation has addressed every legitimate concern Governor Scott has raised with respect to plans to connect Florida through high-speed rail. We have repeatedly and clearly told Governor Scott and his staff that Florida would not bear financial or legal liabilities for the project, and that there is strong private sector interest in taking on the risk associated with building and operating high-speed rail in the state.”

Last week Scott abruptly announced he would be pulling the plug on the $2.7 billion rail line, the first true high speed rail in the U.S.   The Tampa to Orlando line, which was also to stop at Disney World, was to have been complete in just four years -- by 2015.  Scott said Florida's $280 million investment carried too much risk, and that he would return $2.4 billion to the federal government.

But a day after Scott's decision,

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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.

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It's A Free Blog

If This is the New Normal...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tens of thousands of Americans gather in the streets of Madison, prompting solidarity rallies around the country as they defend the rights of workers. Big banks, having received record bailouts, continue predatory practices on regular Americans while seeing their own profits increase. The ultra-rich horde more and more of our nation’s wealth while convincing public servants to help decrease their tax burden. Is this the "new normal"?

It is, according to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

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WNYC News

Christie Corners Dems: Limit Public Worker Benefits or Lose Property Tax Relief

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This year in New Jersey the State Assembly and the State Senate have to face the voters in November. 

And in his budget address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Democrats they had a clear choice. Either cut state worker benefits by shifting more of the costs to them or forget property tax relief for New Jersey's beleaguered homeowners.

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It's A Free Country ®

In Budget Address, Christie Dangles Property Tax Cuts in Exchange for Health and Pension Reform

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"This is the new normal," Christie pronounced in Trenton on Tuesday.

Thoroughly optimistic about the state of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie introduced a $29.4 billion 2012 budget, with spending projected to be 2.6 percent less than the current year. He reaffirmed his commitment to not fund commitments made by prior governors if he doesn't believe they're good investments (possibly a reference to pulling a plug on the ARC Tunnel project connecting New York and New Jersey). 

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WNYC News

In Wisconsin's Shadow, Christie Offers Budget for NJ

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As he proposes his second budget, Gov. Christie is still faced with a weak national recovery that helped boost state tax revenues a little but is not generating the jobs the state needs.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: DOT Doesn't Like Mica HSR Plan, Israel Lowers Transit Fares, and Some Cities Get On Board With A "Crash Tax"

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Department of Transportation doesn't like Congressman Mica's plan to scale back Florida's high-speed rail. (Miami Herald)

A New York Times editorial accuses some federal fund-rejecting governors of trying to "keep up with the Christies."

Census data shows that Chicago's central core gained population over the past decade, while outlying neighborhoods lost. (Chicago Tribune)

Some communities are imposing a "crash tax" -- a fee for services -- after car accidents. (Marketplace)

Israel's cabinet lower bus and rail fares and increase subsidies in an effort to encourage the use of public transportation as an alternative to private vehicles. “This will greatly benefit society,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Who uses public transportation?  Not the people in the top decile, but rather those without means and those who want to, and can, use buses and trains, as well as whole groups of people who want to avoid traffic jams while entering cities.  We want to encourage this." (Jerusalem Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue says the MTA knew it needed better snow-thrower cars two years ago -- but "relies in part on a bunch of deafening relics" to clear the tracks.

The Star-Ledger profiles Jim Weinstein, the head of NJ Transit, and previews the "balanced scorecard" the agency plans to release this summer detailing on-time performance, employee safety, financial stability and customer service.

Snow day tweet, courtesy of Newark Mayor Cory Booker: "Snow Snow get out of here/ Leave my city alone until Jan of next year/ Snow Snow I want rain instead/Cause of u my budget is heading 2 red"

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: John Mica proposes a plan to save Florida's high-speed rail, after Rick Scott's rejection of the program leaves bidders perplexed. DC's new mayor slams his predecessor over transportation. And: do more cyclists mean safer streets?

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