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Transportation Nation

NY Lawmakers Keep Up Pressure to Get NJ's ARC Money

Friday, November 19, 2010

New York lawmakers continue their push to collect the $3 billion in federal transportation money originally pledged to the now-canceled ARC tunnel project.  Here's the letter requesting New Jersey's forgone funds sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by members of New York's Congressional delegation .

ARC letter from NY Pols

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WNYC News

New Jersey to Hold Black Bear Hunt in December

Monday, November 15, 2010

Next month, New Jersey will hold its first black bear hunt in five years. The state's Department of Environmental Protection says the black bear population in northern New Jersey is about 3,500 — and decade ago, that number was under 1,000. DEP Spokesman Larry Ragonese said New Jersey received more than 3,000 bear complaints last year, ranging from minor nuisance calls to aggressive behavior.

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Transportation Nation

Feds to NJ Transit: You Owe Us $271 Million for ARC Work. NJT: Not So Fast

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Monday, the Federal Transit Administration sent this letter to NJ Transit requesting immediate repayment of $271 million in federal money spent on preliminary work for the ARC tunnel project killed by Governor Chris Christie on October 27th.

The federal government had obligated $350 million already for the initial phase of planning and construction. Of that, New Jersey has spent just over $271 million and the feds want it back. NJ Transit, for its part, is saying not so fast. Their response is below the FTA letter.

ARC Repayment Letter

NJ Transit issued Transportation Nation this response:

"NJ TRANSIT received the FTA request for repayment on November 8, 2010.  At this time, we are reviewing the request, and are assessing our options.  NJ TRANSIT does not agree that the issues are as clear cut as portrayed in the FTA letter."

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WNYC News

GOP House Win Could Put NJ Reps at Center of Debate

Friday, November 05, 2010

The shift to GOP control in the US House of Representatives could mean some high-profile positions for some New Jersey Republicans that will put them at the center of major national policy debates.

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Transportation Nation

How Far Will Governor Christie Go in Privatizing New Jersey?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

New Jersey Turnpike Shield(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed the ARC rail tunnel project (again) last Wednesday, he took the time to knock down some of the possibilities for cost savings that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood had offered

in an attempt to save the largest public works project in America. One of these options was to use a public-private partnership, or P3.  “There was some interest in the ARC project from some private facilities,” Christie said. “But remember this, none of that will address the cost or the technical risk in the project. None of it will absorb additional costs from the tax payers because in the end, New Jerseyans are going to be responsible in some fashion to pay for the costs of it. In essence, it’s the difference between public financing and private financing. It’s really the only difference.”

But Christie's dismissal of the specific privatization scheme suggested for the tunnel does not indicate a distaste for P3s in general. Christie’s Transportation Commissioner, James Simpson, announced the day before the ARC press conference that the state would be soliciting bids in December to privatize the work of collecting tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Taking toll collection out of government (and union) hands could save up to $43 million a year, or so suggested a report (pdf) delivered in May by the New Jersey Privatization Task Force, which Governor Christie himself created by executive order in March.

The New Jersey Privatization Task Force put forth a number of privatization opportunities from across virtually every department of state government.

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WNYC News

Poll: A Majority of New Jersey Residents Support Christie's Decision to Kill ARC Tunnel

Friday, October 29, 2010

A new poll finds that among New Jersey residents who were asked, a majority support Gov. Chris Christie's decision to kill the Hudson River rail tunnel project.

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WNYC News

Member of Gambino Crime Family Receives 11-Year Prison Term

Friday, October 29, 2010

A New Jersey man that police identify as a top member of the Gambino crime family has been sentenced to 11 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a federal racketeering conspiracy charge.

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WQXR News

Gov. Christie Kills ARC Tunnel Again

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gov. Christie cancels the ARC Tunnel for a second time.

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Transportation Nation

ARC Tunnel is Dead--Again UPDATED

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UPDATED 10:25 p.m. EST

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) An official familiar with the project confirms that NJ Governor Chris Christie is terminating the largest infrastructure project currently underway in the United States.

Christie first announced his intention on October 7th to halt progress on the ARC tunnel after cost projections were as much as $5 billion more than allocated funds. Federal officials had convinced Gov. Christie to take two weeks to reconsider his plans. A final decision from his office has been expected since Friday.

The Star-Ledger and AP report federal officials offered to change the terms of financing for the $8.7-$14 billion dollar ARC tunnel, but did not offer additional federal funds to the State of New Jersey which would have to pay for any cost overruns. That was, apparently, not enough to sway Gov. Christie who has received national support and attention, particularly from the Tea Party movement, for his "belt-tightening" stance on the ARC tunnel project.

The tunnel would have doubled commuter rail capacity between New Jersey and New York City.

The Governor's office is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday.

Matthew Schuerman is following the story closely for our partner WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

New ARC Estimates Embolden Christie

Friday, October 22, 2010

(New York -- Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) Governor Chris Christie is taking new federal estimates of the Hudson River train tunnel as confirmation the project’s way off budget.

“Secretary LaHood confirmed today what we knew two weeks ago,” Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, said in an e-mail. “The ARC Tunnel project is over budget and puts New Jersey taxpayers at risk of being saddled with billions of dollars in added costs.”

LaHood earlier today released revised federal estimates that put the likely cost for the Access to the Region’s Core Tunnel between $9.775 billion to $12.708 billion.

That’s $1 billion to $4 billion over the $8.7 budget for the project.

That’s still a little shy of Christie’s contention, as voiced earlier this week that the tunnel is “running $2 to $5 billion over its original budgeted estimate.”

(Christie’s office says he is counting the $775 million needed to redo the Portal Bridge, a necessary component. Still, the bridge was never included in the $8.7 billion estimate.)

But it’s pretty close.

LaHood’s statement though emphasized the low end of that range.

“DOT is committed to working together through the life of the project to keep costs down to the lowest estimate,” he said.

Christie, meanwhile, is emphasizing the high end.

“Critics who seem to be using the moment for political advantage need to answer the question that remains today and was brought into focus by Secretary LaHood: how would they pay for potentially billions of dollars in cost overruns?” his press secretary said.

Still, Christie’s expected to spend this weekend studying recommendations from the federal and state working group that was set up two weeks ago.

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WNYC News

Federal Government Releases ARC Tunnel Estimates: Projects Up to $4 Billion Overruns

Friday, October 22, 2010

The federal government has publicly revised its estimate for how much the Hudson River tunnel might cost. This comes two weeks after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled the planned train tunnel citing federal estimates that the project could cost up to $5 billion over budget.

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WNYC News

Will the ARC Transit Tunnel Decision be Postponed?

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was expected to make his final decision on the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC)  train tunnel under the Hudson River Friday, but it’s increasingly unclear whether that will happen.

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Transportation Nation

Breaking: ARC Tunnel Cost $4 Billion Lower Than Thought

Friday, October 22, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The AP is reporting federal estimates for the ARC transit tunnel are considerably lower than those cited by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie when he pulled his support for the transit project citing cost concerns. According to AP reports, three government officials familiar with the transit project—the largest currently underway in the United States—confirm federal estimates for the tunnel are $9.77 billion, about $4 billion lower than the worst case scenario, $14 billion, cited by Governor Christie.

Just under $9 billion in funds are currently dedicated to the project including $3 billion from the federal government, $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The State of New Jersey would be responsible for the rest, including any cost overruns, a liability that led Governor Christie to oppose the project. New York City and New York State are not paying any money for the tunnel.

Governor Christie pulled his support for the project two weeks ago, effectively canceling it. After meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, he agreed to a two week reprieve, which ends on Friday. His office would not comment on the newly released figures cited by the AP.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Dems: Governor Christie Pulled Transit Tunnel Numbers "Out of Thin Air"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(New York -- Matthew Schuerman, WNYC)  A top New Jersey Democrats says he's combed through the hundreds of pages that led Governor Chris Christie to dump the ARC train tunnel under the Hudson River and found no justification for it.

"The documents provided by the governor’s own administration fail to provide any justification for the governor’s claim of billions in cost overruns on the tunnel project," Assemblyman John Wisniewski, head of the Assembly's Transportation Committee said in a press release this afternoon. “That claim seems as though it was simply pulled out of thin air by the governor."

Wisniewski got roughly 400 pages of documents Wednesday from the governor's office through a freedom of information request. The Democrat said that three reports on cost estimates that were included state, "The overall project remains within budget," and repeat that the budget remains at $8.7 billion.

Christie, a Republican, canceled the tunnel two weeks ago, saying that internal reports pointed towards as much as $5 billion in cost overruns  and that he wasn't about to pass those costs on to New Jersey taxpayers.

Christie's office hasn't responded to a request for comment. Those wishing to pore through the documents themselves can find them on the assemblyman's web site.

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. : Christie's office says the documents that Wisniewski reviewed are only the first batch of many that he will receive under his information request.

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Transportation Nation

Construction Workers Rally to Save ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

(North Bergen, NJ -- Scott Gurian, WNYC) Supporters of a new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River rallied Tuesday in North Bergen, New Jersey, to save the project, saying it represents thousands of construction jobs for the region.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has put the project, known as the ARC Tunnel, on hold pending a review of the costs. Speaking today in front of hundreds of unionized construction workers, William Mullen, the president of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, said New Jersey can't afford to lose those jobs in tough economic times.

"Is this state broke, and doesn't have the money?” he asked. “Yes. But do we have to find a way to come up with it? Yes we do! If we're gonna make this state grow and survive for our children, our grandchildren, it has to be done."

The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that the unemployment rate in the construction industry rose to 17.2 percent last month.

Governor Christie has said he doesn’t want New Jersey taxpayers on the hook for cost overruns. After an appeal from the U.S. Department of Transportation, he is expected to announce later this week whether he's killing the project once and for all.

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It's A Free Country ®

Running on, or from, Healthcare

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WNYC
I'm not saying it is a perfect bill, but it is a landmark bill. It will do for most of America what medicare did for those over 65. It changes the entire view of health care in America. It used to be that if you were over 65, you, on average, got inferior health care. After 1965, the elderly could count on good health care.

- Rush Holt, member of Congress from New Jersey's 12th District on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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Transportation Nation

The ARC of the Covenant: ARC Tunnel Update

Thursday, October 14, 2010

ARC tunnel supporters are taking advantage of the two-week reprieve that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the project to make their case again. Christie canceled the project last week because of cost overruns, though he later agreed to study more options after a meeting with federal government officials.

Today New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and Regional Plan Association president Bob Yaro unveiled a new study ("The ARC Effect") that reiterated some of the arguments in favor of the $9 billion dig. And they said the study demonstrates the importance of the tunnel to a group of people whom, they said, had been overlooked: the Garden State's commuters.

"Just wait a few years. If there's no ARC tunnel, New Jersey commutes will come to a complete stop," warned the senator. "And if we cancel this project, New Jersey will continue to expand its role as a parking lot for New York City, isolated from job opportunities in Manhattan by making the travel time longer. Jobs that will have gone to New Jerseyans will instead go to people in Connecticut, Westchester, and Long Island."

The benefits of the tunnel, Lautenberg continued, are legion: better transit options would increase property values by $18 billion. Commuting times would drop on average by 15 to 30 minutes, which mean more family/leisure time. And the tunnel was critical for Homeland Security purposes.

But above all, he hammered home the point he's been making for some time now: New Jersey needs the tunnel, it has committed to building the tunnel, and it must respect that commitment. The senator wouldn't directly answer questions asking about what specific plans are under way to save the tunnel. But he said he wouldn't rule out going back to the federal government for more money.

"I'll certainly make the plea," he said. "I want the federal government to help out here. But New Jersey has to pick up its responsibility."

Bob Yaro said the need for the tunnel was a foregone conclusion, and that it was never going to be cheaper than now. "The congestion's only going to get worse. And the next governor, or the governor after that, is going to have to move ahead with this thing. And that's when you really will see a $15 billion or a $20 billion price tag."

Senator Lautenberg was asked if New York would be contributing money to the tunnel. "They haven't asked to do so," he said cagily, and he continued that he'd only ask them "warily." He said he hasn't gotten a response yet from a letter he wrote to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asking them to help with any additional cost overruns. "They haven't said no," he said. "That doesn't mean they've said yes."

Governor Christie's office had no additional comment today beyond the statement they released last week, which reads:

“The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged. However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans-Hudson tunnel project. At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks.”

That two week mark is coming up on Thursday, October 21.

Read the RPA's study here (pdf).

Listen to the audio from today's press conference by clicking on the following link: Senator Frank Lautenberg and Bob Yaro, Regional Plan Association

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WNYC News

In NJ, Adler Campaign Reportedly Recruited Tea Party Candidate as Stalking Horse

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WNYC

Republican Party officials in New Jersey are asking federal authorities to investigate the reelection campaign of Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.). Adler's campaign in the Third Congressional District in South Jersey – along with the Camden County Democratic Committee – reportedly devised a scheme to siphon votes away from Adler's Republican challenger, former professional football player Jon Runyan. The scheme allegedly involved promoting Tea Party candidate Peter DeStefano, who would take away enough votes from Runyan, to help Adler win reelection in the closely contested race.

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WNYC News

New York, New Jersey Join Investigation into Foreclosures

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey have joined a coordinated investigation of improper foreclosures procedings that could have violated state laws.

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WQXR News

Christie May Reconsider Arc Tunnel Project

Friday, October 08, 2010

A day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a permanent halt to construction of a new commuter train tunnel, and now he may reconsider.

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