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Governor Chris Christie

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Christie Says He Won't Rule Out Vice Presidency

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday to spread his State of the State message to a national audience — and also did not rule out running for vice president.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Lawmaker Calls for Probe of Port Authority Toll Hike

Friday, December 02, 2011

Lincoln Tunnel Helix(New York, NY -- Annmarie Fertoli, WNYC) A New Jersey lawmaker is calling on Governor Chris Christie's office to investigate how the Port Authority handled recent bridge and tunnel tolls and PATH fare hikes.

The agency argued last summer that it needed the money to pay for redevelopment at the World Trade Center site — but state Assemblyman Gary Schaer said legal documents the agency filed last month made no mention of the site.

"That brings us to question what happened between August and now, as well as are commuters going to be asked to pay for the World Trade Center additionally," he said. "So there's tremendous confusion, and confusion is a nice word."

Schaer said he's hoping to hear back from the governor's office next week.

The story was first reported this week by The Star Ledger.

The legal filing came in response to a lawsuit by the AAA motorists group that argues the hikes are not "fair and reasonable," as federal law requires. Both sides are due back in court for that case next week.

In September, cash tolls jumped on the Port Authority's Hudson River crossings, including the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, jumped from $8 to $12.

The Port Authority released a statement saying:

“In August, the Port Authority informed the Governors of New York and New Jersey that the Port Authority was facing a severe fiscal crisis if it pursued its planned capital plan in the absence of a toll and fare increase. In such event, the Authority would be unable to fund the interstate transportation network projects, much less complete the long lists of other important non-network projects. Ensuring an additional flow of revenue through the toll and fare increase provides for funding of the interstate transportation network projects and makes available other Port Authority resources to complete hundreds of capital projects that are critical to the region's infrastructure needs, and the World Trade Center."

Neither Governor Andrew Cuomo's office nor Governor Chris Christie's office is commenting, referring all questions to the Port Authority. The governors jointly control the bi-state authority.

For a copy of the letter, click here.

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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.

 

 

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WNYC News

Port Authority Passes Toll And Fare Hikes

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WNYC

The Port Authority approved toll and fare hikes that will make it more costly to use its Hudson River crossings, which include bridges, tunnels and trains.

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Transportation Nation

Derailment Sparks Fierce Debate Over Future Of Rail Between NY And NJ

Friday, August 12, 2011

(robotbrainz/Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) For three rush hours over two days this week, the derailed New Jersey Transit train cars sat motionless as roadkill. They'd broken down not far from their point of departure, Penn Station in Manhattan, and were blocking a section of track outside one of two heavily used train tunnels beneath the Hudson River. With one slip off the rails, they'd reduced by half the rail capacity between New Jersey and the central business district of New York--a crucial commuter link that accommodates 1,300 trains a day. Massive delays ensued.

The longer the crippled cars idled, the lower two powerful New Jersey politicians swooped, looking to make a meal of the situation.

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a statement that essentially said, this is why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie should never have canceled the ARC Tunnel last fall. The project would have doubled the train lines under the Hudson from two to four. With an ARC Tunnel, a derailment blocking one track would leave three tracks running.

"The existing tunnel is over a century old and not capable of handling the increased traffic we will see in the future," Lautenberg said. "Instead of accepting $3 billion in federal funding for New Jersey to advance the ARC project, the Governor turned down the money and settled for the status quo – leaving New Jersey commuters and our economy to suffer."

In an email to WNYC, Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak called Lautenberg's remarks "completely gratuitous." He said the ARC Tunnel threatened cost overruns that New Jersey couldn't afford.

"The senator of all people should know by now that the tunnel project he continues to endorse was stopped because it was a very bad deal for New Jersey," Drewniak wrote, before adding that the governor supported "additional cross-Hudson commuter rail capacity."

As it happens, there's a plan for that. It's called Gateway Tunnel. (See this pdf). Senator Lautenberg is a champion of the project, though he much preferred the ARC tunnel, which would've added 25 trains per hour compared to Gateway's 21.  It was also already under construction, mostly funded, and scheduled to open by decade's end.

New Jersey's monetary contribution to the ARC project, which Christie believed was too high, would've meant that New Jersey Transit controlled it--as opposed to control by Amtrak, which already owns and oversees the existing tunnel.

The importance of that arrangement was shown by the recent derailment. Amtrak was in charge of dispatching trains along the sole serviceable track. It's unclear whether Amtrak privileged its dozens of rush hour trains compared to NJ Transit's hundreds, but for the most part Amtrak suffered delays of 15 to 45 minutes while NJ Transit saw massive cancellations and long delays. (It was a bilevel NJ Transit train that derailed. Neither Amtrak nor NJ Transit has cited a cause for the accident.)

Supporters of the Gateway Tunnel say it will cost $10 to $13 billion and ten years to complete. What are the chances it will happen? Next month will provide a clue, when Amtrak's request for $50 million for a design study comes before Congress. A staff member to an elected official familiar with the request said he expects a fierce fight over it, with cost-conscious Republicans in the House opposing and Democrats supporting it.

UPDATE. The Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility says in a blog post that when one of two train tunnels is blocked, capacity is actually cut by more than 50 percent:

When trains go through a single tunnel in one direction, they can follow each other one after the other with minimal space in between. But if a single tunnel serves trains going in both directions, the trains must be more spaced out, because a train going in one direction must wait for the train in the opposite direction to clear the tunnel. So, for example, two tunnels each serving 25 trains per hour, becomes one tunnel serving 15.

 

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Transportation Nation

Anatomy of A Toll Hike Proposal

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cars Headed To Holland Tunnel (photo: Kate Hinds)

To be in a vehicle on a Friday afternoon in New York City is a particular kind of hell.  No matter where you go, there are thousands of motorists in front of you, edging their way off the island...by the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel. We New Yorkers pride ourselves on being able to game the system -- on finding the one traffic-free road out of town, or choosing the bridge or tunnel that will get us to our weekend destination most quickly, or taking the train, or staying put, or figuring out, down to the minute, when is the best possible time to leave to beat it all.  But still, somehow almost every New Yorker has found him- or  herself slowly but inevitably inching towards one of the Port Authority crossings on a Friday afternoon, stuck in a nasty and impenetrable row of barely-moving vehicles.

 

Funny that, because around 4 pm on Friday is when the Port Authority announced a proposal to raise toll rates to as much as $15 during peak times (from $8) for drivers paying cash – somewhat less for EZ Pass users – and to raise the PATH commuter train fare from $1.75 to $2.75.    It was a decision the bi-state authority has found itself inching inevitably towards.

Now, a digression on the timing of the release. Friday afternoons –- particularly in August-- are when governments dump bad news.  The Port Authority press release not only came late on a Friday, reporters’ email inboxes soon filled with statements of support from business, labor and transit groups.  Then, to further the proposal:  a carefully-worded – and unusual – joint statement from Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, who together control the Port.  The Governors were careful not to rule out the hikes.   (Keep reading for an explanation of why.)

The release – which cited 9/11-related World Trade Center costs as a major impetus behind the hikes – also came out about a month before 9/11’s tenth anniversary.  If you’re going to ask for tolls to pay for WTC-related costs, August 2011 is a pretty good time to do it. When asked about whether he had any explanation for the timing of the release, a Port Authority spokesman said he’d “take the hit on that. “

Oh yes, there’s another thing. In these fare-hike battles, typically an Authority will put out a true doomsday hike plan. Toll and transit users will howl, as will politicians. Then, at the end, governors will “find” some money, and everyone will feel relieved that the hike is not as bad as initially proposed.

But back to the snarl, and how we got here.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the Port Authority, which owns the 16 acre-site where the Twin Towers once stood, has been responsible for rebuilding the World Trade Center, and for the increasingly apparent security needs of the new One World Trade (aka the “Freedom Tower.”)

In a press release announcing the toll hikes, the Authority put those costs at $11 billion and $6 billion respectively, though that doesn’t account for what the Authority has received in insurance money and some rent payments.

But still.  It hasn’t been hard to trace the growing costs.  Take just one example: the World Trade Center transit hub, which architect Santiago Calatrava once described as evoking “a dove in flight,” was initially projected to cost $2.2 billion.  Its price tag is now $3.44 billion. Some 50,000 commuters from New Jersey use that station, a number that’s expected to rise to 70,000 when the new station is built. About 750,000 riders pass through Grand Central Station each day.

Three point four billion dollars is a lot of money for a train station, but at the same time, it will be at one of the most emotionally resonant locations in the world. Who wants to say 'No, it’s not worth it?'

There’s been a lot of that at the WTC, but that only partly accounts for the Port Authority’s budget problems. The struggling economy has meant both a smaller number of drivers paying tolls, as well as fewer airport fees.

But that still doesn’t paint the whole picture. Unlike, say the NY MTA, which gets (dwindling) subsidies from the government and from taxes, the Port Authority raises all its own revenue from tolls and fees. The bi-state authority is controlled by two governors, in this case, NJ Governor Chris Christie and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. Both men have cut taxes, and have made it clear they don’t intend to raise any more. Which means the Port Authority revenues look increasingly attractive to both men -- who, after all, do have to pay for infrastructure one way or another.

Governor Christie has asked the Port Authority to use the $1.8 billion it would have contributed to the ARC tunnel to improve roads, which solves part of the budget hole created by Christie’s decision not to raise the gas tax to fund the state highway trust fund, which is broke. And the NY MTA -- controlled by Cuomo --  has asked for $380 million from the Port Authority for the NY MTA’s capital plan.  "These raids are pressuring the fares,” says Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Christie is using the $1.8 billion to plug holes in the state’s transportation program.”

But Tom Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, backs the plan to raise tolls. “Tolls should not be off-limits. There has to be some way to pay for surface transportation.”

It appears that Governors Christie and Cuomo might be coming to the conclusion that of the various unpalatable options -– raising taxes, turning over more money from their respective state budgets to transportation, or raising tolls -- that raising tolls through the Port Authority, which offers them some political insulation, might be the best of the unsavory choices.  In a carefully worded statement Friday, which underplayed their own control of the Port Authority, the two governors said:

“The Port Authority has informed us of its proposal to dramatically increase tolls on its tunnels and bridges and fares on the PATH.

While we understand the Port Authority leadership's concerns about a potential downgrade to its bond rating if toll increases are not instituted, our primary concern with this proposal is its impact on our respective states’ residents and commercial users of the crossings.”

On Monday Christie gave a further hint that he might support toll hikes in some form. Cutting the Port Authority’s budget “would mean that hundreds of projects would have to be stopped, that thousands of people would be laid off, and that progress on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site would slow, if not stop. So, governing is about choosing. You’ve got to make choices.”

Cuomo also did not rule out toll hikes, though he called this proposal “a non-starter” at a Tuesday Q&A with reporters. Still, he said, he understood the Port needed money, and said that he’d huddle with his two appointees on the board (the others were appointed by his predecessors or by New Jersey) to review the proposal.  He gave no timetable for the review, but did say: “The knee-jerk response of 'the government needs more money, go to the taxpayer, put your hand in the taxpayers' pocket, take out more money and fund it' --  that doesn’t work for me.  It doesn’t work for the taxpayer and it doesn’t work for the state of New York."

The Port Authority estimates raising tolls would produce $720 million a year, and an additional $290 million a year after 2014, when tolls would rise again.

But it estimates two incentives in the plan –- a steep discount for EZ Pass users and more off-peak hours for trucks -- would ease congestion at tolls by encouraging some 85 percent of drivers to use the tags, and nudging trucks to drive in later where possible. (Truck drivers have argued it's impossible to deliver some goods in the middle of the night, but the Port Authority says previous off-peak incentives have pushed drivers to enter the city at non-peak times.)

There are certainly people for whom a toll rise creates unbearable hardship, particularly people who moved out to the exurbs for larger, cheaper housing and now find themselves paying huge amounts for gas to get to their New York City-based jobs.

But Robert “Buz” Paaswell,  a City College of New York professor, says he did a study for the Tri-Borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, a division of the NY MTA, on the feasibility of raising tolls. After all, if you raise tolls so much that people just don’t pay them, you’ve done an exercise that may get drivers off the street, but won’t increase revenue. “We did a study for the TBTA, looking at classes of riders, and asked what is the elasticity of different prices. In the end the demand to cross the bridges is so very high, the alternatives are so very low that people are going to gripe and then they are gonig to pay it.”

 

 

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It's A Free Country ®

Stephen Sweeney on NJ Budget Battles

Monday, July 25, 2011

When people started looking at these cuts, they were getting angry like I was...People see this as mean-spirited, cruel, honestly it’s heartless. Look, if you want to fight with me, fight with me. But don’t take innocent hostages.

New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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It's A Free Country ®

Richard Codey on New Jersey Politics

Friday, May 13, 2011

WNYC
My feeling is, if you’re the governor, you lead by example, and you can disagree with people, but be a gentleman. And [Christie's] style is different, and that’s his right, no question about it.

Richard Codey, former president of the New Jersey Senate and former New Jersey acting governor, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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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.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Oil Prices Up -- As Are Airline Prices, NJ Transit Riders Exhale, and Florida Still Without Top Transpo Official

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A California Democrat introduced a bill that would fire the current members of the board governing California's high-speed rail project and replace them with experts who don't have a financial stake in the undertaking. (Oakland Tribune)

Oahu's $5.5 billion, 21-station rail project has officially broken ground. (Examiner)

Maryland's newest toll road opens to traffic today. "The full cost of the Intercounty Connector - the exchange of woodlands for asphalt; the effects on residents along its path; debt payments that could require raising tolls throughout the state - will be analyzed for years. The immediate question is how opening the first 7.2 miles will affect traffic." (Washington Post)

Higher oil prices send airline fares up. (Dallas Morning News)

NJ Transit riders issue a collective exhale after Governor Christie's budget address yesterday. (Asbury Park Press)

DC's Metro Transit Police Department says that thefts of electronic devices accounted for 76% of all robberies on the Metro in 2010 (Washington Post). So they've created a helpful PSA:

The Brooklyn Paper says that ambulances are no strangers to the Prospect Park West bike lane.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has yet to name the state's top transportation official, but already he has installed the agency's chief of staff, hired its lawyer and pulled the trigger on a major decision to blow up plans for high-speed rail. (St. Petersburg Times)

The Massachusetts woman who lost her boa constrictor on a Boston subway car has been hit with a $650 cleaning bill by the MBTA, which had to "sanitize" the car. (Boston Herald)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: NJ Governor Christie's budget increases transpo funding. Controversy continues over whether a new ring road for Houston is a must -- or a road to nowhere. And opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane don't want new bike lanes, anywhere in the city.

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Transportation Nation

Down to the Wire on Whether NJ Will Pay $271 Million for Cancelling ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The clock is ticking on a proposed deal between the feds and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over his decision in October to cancel the ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson because of projected cost overruns.

Christie has until the end of today to decide whether he will reimburse the Federal Transit Administration $271 million spent on ARC. In exchange, the agency would then turn around and hand back $128 million to the state for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion.

Meanwhile, earlier today Christie told Bloomberg TV: "We're having conversations with Mayor Bloomberg and others regarding the extension of the No. 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, which would do what we really wanted the ARC tunnel to do originally." (See WNYC for the full story.)

Governor Christie has said the state doesn't owe the money. Last month, he directed New Jersey Transit to hire Patton Boggs, a high-powered Washington law firm, to make the case for him with the federal government--by lawsuit, if necessary. The firm now stands ready to file suit if an agreement isn't reached in the next several hours.

"We have until midnight tonight," said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak earlier today. "We have about seven hours and forty-nine minutes, something like that. We expect that our attorneys in Washington will be filing a timely response today."

Asked at a transportation conference in Washington how the negotiations were going, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff declined to comment. The agency has already granted the state two extensions on an original deadline of December 24.

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Transportation Nation

Christie Vs. Schumer on ARC - Round 4

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) First, U.S. Senator Schumer took the podium at a business breakfast this morning and slammed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for killing the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Easy for you to say, retorted a spokesman for Governor Christie, when New York will be on the hook for "zero, zilch, nothing" if the project goes over budget--perhaps by several billion dollars.

In response, a spokesman for Schumer accused Christie of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" by not negotiating with the Feds about relief from potential cost overruns, thereby costing area workers "tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters." He added that by terminating the tunnel, Governor Christie had "flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”

Now Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, has made yet another reply. "We are very comfortable with our decision on behalf of New Jersey and its taxpayers," he said.  "Senator Schumer embraces deficit spending, we do not."

Drewniak concluded by implying that Schumer's 30 years in Congress have made him something of a free-spender: "He’s been in Washington a long time."

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Transportation Nation

Schumer vs. Christie -- Round 3 in ARC Tunnel Bout

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If words were wrestling holds, Senator Schumer just slipped Governor Christie's suplex and countered with a double-knee facebreaker. Or at least their spokesmen did.

This morning, Schumer told local leaders at a breakfast that Christie made a "terrible, terrible decision" in October by shutting down the ARC commuter tunnel under the Hudson River. In response, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said it was all too easy for Schumer to call for the reinstatement of a "boondoggle" with projected cost overruns that would be borne by New Jersey but cost New York "zero, zilch, nothing." He added that the only way Schumer could have made his remarks was if he "didn't brush up on the topic before he spoke" or was merely scoring political points.

Now Schumer spokesman Mike Morey has answered back.

“The people who are out of work in New York and New Jersey are not interested in insults, they are interested in jobs," Morey said in an email to WNYC. "Thousands of people could be put to work today on a project that will create the infrastructure we need to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and in this case thousands of jobs. Rather than come to the table and work with federal officials to deal with overruns, and preserve an asset everyone agrees is needed in the region, the Governor’s decision flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”

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It's A Free Country ®

NJ's Pension Problem: 'A Bipartisan Adventure in Malfeasance.'

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We are basically seeing that the very tough debate is being presaged in the public sector union that we're having nationally about the social contract that existed and was implied in Social Security. Those were drafted in another time when people didn't live so long, and all the actual presumptions were based on that. Now people are living longer and we have to renegotiate those contracts. That said, what the unions are concerned about is that Christie is leaving out the super wealthy who have been doing really well throughout this whole period.

Bob Hennelly, WNYC reporter, on The Brian Lehrer Show

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transportation Plan Draws Fire; Some ARC Money Goes to Roads

Friday, January 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's announcement yesterday that he was putting forward a "responsible transportation capital plan," drew a quick torrent of criticism from transit advocates already stung by huge fare hikes and, later, the death of the trans-Hudson passenger rail ARC tunnel.

Christie's move does seem to take NJ transportation funding back to the future -- to a time when road-building was prioritized over transit.   In the 1950's and through the end of the twentieth century, U.S. transportation policy favored road funding over transit funding at a ratio of about eighty to twenty percent.  In the last decade, everyone from urban planning graduate students to President Barack Obama have decried the sprawl such funding formulas created.

But for Christie, the ARC tunnel was an unsustainable project, getting built as NJ's Highway Trust Fund was broke and roads were falling into disrepair.   By re-purposing this funding, Christie says, he's taking the fiscally responsible route.

"Over each of the next five years the Christie Plan will increase cash contributions used to fund transportation projects while at the same time decreasing the use of borrowing.

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WNYC News

Sen. Lautenberg: NJ Governor Using Transit Funds "As a Fix" to Problems

Friday, January 07, 2011

WNYC

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg accused Gov. Chris Christie of using money that would have gone to the nation's biggest transit project as "a fix for his political problems." Christie, who killed a $9 billion commuter rail project under the Hudson River last Fall, is planning to use some of the funds that had been designated for the ARC tunnel elsewhere.

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Transportation Nation

The Record: Feds say Christie knew of risk on tunnel

Friday, December 10, 2010

From today's NJ Record:

The feds say NJ Governor Christie was aware his predecessor, Jon Corzine, had signed an  "Early System Work Agreement" to get federal funds to NJ quickly for the ARC Tunnel project -- and that such an agreement meant money would have to be returned if the project wasn't built.

Christie reaffirmed New Jersey's commitment to the project in an April 8 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that called the tunnel "critical for the transit riders of New Jersey and the region."

"Given the time constraints of current contractor bids, I look forward to an expeditious award of the second Early System Work Agreement," Christie wrote. Six days later, FTA notified NJ Transit the agreement was granted, allowing for contracts to go forward on parts of the project in North Bergen and Kearny, according to documents released Thursday by the USDOT.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Hires K Street Powerhouse to Fight $271 Million Tab for ARC Tunnel

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Law firm Patton Boggs is a major K Street lobbyist in Washington, DC.

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Transit is ratifying Governor Christie's decision to hire DC law firm Patton Boggs to fight a $271 million tab from the federal government for work on a defunct tunnel project.

Patton Boggs is one of Washington's most influential--and best paid--lobbying firms. New Jersey Transit executive director James Weinstein says the firm's expertise in the ways of federal bureaucracies make them worth the $485 an hour they'll be charging the state.

"Whatever we pay this law firm is going to be far less than what the federal government and the Federal Transit Administration is asking us to pay them," Weinstein said.

The FTA is giving the state until December 24 to pay its "debt to the United States"--reimbursement for initial work on the ARC tunnel project. Governor Christie cancelled it in October, citing the possibility of cost overruns. The move has proved popular with 56% of polled voters in New Jersey.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit to Hire Biggest DC Lobbying and Law Firm to fight FTA

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gov. Chris Christie

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)

Here come the lawyers.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has hired a law firm to challenge a $271 million tab the federal government says the state owes for the canceled ARC rail tunnel. Christie says he's approved the selection of the high-powered Washington, D.C. firm of Patton Boggs.

New Jersey Transit, which oversaw the trans-Hudson tunnel project that Christie killed in October, could ratify a contract with the firm at its meeting a week from Thursday.

Christie's office said yesterday the state would challenge the federal bill for money already spent on the project, known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC.

The November 24 bill seeks payment within 30 days.

A Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the hire, saying "We're much better off using a firm like this than using our own in-house attorneys or attorneys general. Not to knock their expertise, but let's face it, that's what these attorneys [at Patton Boggs] do for a living."

Read the rest of the story here.

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Transportation Nation

Christie Hires Big DC Lobbying/Law Firm to Argue Transit Tunnel case

Thursday, December 02, 2010

From Governor Christie's Press Office (analysis coming):

Governor Chris Christie Approves Retention of Law Firm to Protect Taxpayers from Unreasonable FTA Demands

For Immediate Release

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trenton, NJ – Furthering his commitment to protect New Jersey taxpayers, Governor Chris Christie today approved New Jersey Transit’s retention of a law firm to challenge the Federal Transit Administration’s attempt to bill the state $271 million in connection with the Governor’s cancellation of the ARC Tunnel project with its billions in potential cost overruns.

In cancelling the tunnel project, Governor Christie sought to protect taxpayers from an open-ended bill for a project whose final costs were unknown and unpredictable and which left New Jersey responsible for all cost overruns.  Now, Governor Christie will extend his pledge to protect taxpayers by challenging the federal government in its demand for more money from New Jersey.

“It’s not surprising that the same federal transit agency that had no clear way to pay for cost overruns of a project already hurt by poor planning and inequitable cost sharing is relying on bureaucratic power plays to wring even more money from New Jerseyans,” Governor Christie said.  “New Jersey and its taxpayers should not be responsible for these costs, which is why our Administration is making every effort to fight the FTA’s unreasonable demands.  I simply cannot allow our state to be taken advantage of any further over this highly flawed project.”

The Governor also said he was gratified to see bi-partisan support emerging from New Jersey’s Congressional delegation in support of the move to challenge the FTA and protect New Jersey taxpayers.

The Governor has authorized New Jersey Transit to retain the Washington, D.C. law firm of Patton Boggs, LLP.  NJ Transit will consider ratifying the contract at its regular board meeting on December 9.

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