Two weeks ago, Governor Christie decided to cancel the $8.7 billion Hudson River rail tunnel project, America’s largest public works project also known as Access to the Region’s Core, due to the large financial burden it would put on the state. Christie had previously frozen this project in early September when the total went $1 billion above that estimated cost and thought a review was necessary. The Access to the Region’s Core tunnel has been projected to double train capacity between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan by 2018. Currently, during popular peaks of the day there might be 23 trains coming in; that number would rise to 48. The idea of such an intiative has taken various forms of the last century.
One of the vocal critics of Christie’s decision making on the project has been U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The tunnel would not only be good for transportation, but serve as an economic stimulant. Supporters of the tunnel have risen the point of this project serving as that job stimulant. 6,000 construction-related jobs would be created during the project and once completed it would add as many as 45,000 jobs. The transportation aspect of the project would put more people in public transportation and less cars on the road lowering greenhouse gasses in the air.
Assembly Transportation Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) has also been very critical of Christie calling this decision “irresponsible”. Wisniewski sees this decision as “Governor Christie destroy[ing] economic development in the region, crush[ing] job creation in New Jersey and put[ting] public safety at risk for decades to come.”
Additionally, Ray LaHood, the Department of Transportation Secretary, has quietly urged Christie to reconsider cancelling the project before the two could meet and discuss it. While many in the Democratic legislature feel that Christie would prefer to see money go towards roads and bridges, which would continue to delay any type of gas tax.
Initially, Christie was basing his decision and analysis of the project on numbers involving the cost and if the state could feasibility afford it. Limited spending was one of the points Christie ran on and still holds firm to. As he stated, “I got sent to Trenton to stop spending money we didn’t have. We have got a long history of spending money we didn’t have, and I’m not going to continue that long legacy.” This tunnel project would cost too much money for New Jersey taxpayers for Christie’s liking.
James Weinstein, the executive director of New Jersey Transit, echoed some of Christie sentiments involving the economic climate of New Jersey and the costs involved with the project being reasons behind halting the project.
Christie has compared the tunnel project to the “Big Dig” of Boston in terms of him not wanting to have a project linger like that one and accruing more costs for the state and its taxpayers then was originally expected. The current benchmark figure of $8.7 billion could nearly double to $14 billion according to Christie and reports he has read.
The costs break down as such: the federal government earmarked $3 billion, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey added $3 billion, and the state of New Jersey provides the $2.7 billion. $3 billion is capped by the federal government so Christie can decide to invest that money in other areas of transportation in the state.
These early developments would set the table for what would transpire from both sides of the argument.