Photo: Chuck WalkerAfter two weeks of “reconsideration,” Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has once again killed the nation’s largest public transit project, a rail tunnel under the Hudson River that was pegged to cost $8.7 billion and create thousands of jobs. (Read our earlier coverage here and here.)
This time, it seems certain it will stay dead.
Christie said concerns about potential cost overruns made the project, which would have doubled capacity on one of the nation’s most congested commuter rail corridors, a no-win situation for his state. From NorthJersey.com:
“There is no opportunity for reconsideration on my part. We’re done. I am moving on,” Christie said.
He spiked the tunnel project because state debt is maxed after years of “irresponsible” borrowing.
“The bill has come due,” Christie said.
During a news conference today, Christie said the federal government had offered only $378 million more to cover costs he has said would balloon and leave New Jersey to cover the tab.
Christie’s move comes in spite of an intense lobbying effort by the Obama administration. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to New Jersey two weeks ago to try to cut a deal, an effort chronicled as an hour-by-hour thriller by the Star-Ledger, and the Department of Transportation was proposing more deals as recently as this past weekend.
It’s a stark example of how one elected official can scuttle a public works project that was in development for 20 years.
Tunnel advocates said the state and the region will pay dearly for sinking the tunnel — in jobs, economic development, and ever-more-congested commutes. They are especially worried about what Christie might have in mind for the $2.7 billion New Jersey had committed for ARC. From a statement issued by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign:
It would be particularly discouraging if ARC was sacrificed to shore up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. This quick fix would only be enough to get the fund through a year or two, after which the state will be faced with a bankrupt transportation system yet again. The crushing transportation debt load and bottom-of-the-barrel infrastructure faced by today’s citizens is a direct result of state leaders’ unwillingness to increase the gas tax, which is the third lowest in the country and has not been raised since 1988. New Jersey has not adequately funded transportation in decades, and putting off the tough choices yet again will mean more pain for future generations.
Christie has been adamant in his refusal to raise the state’s gas tax.