After halting Hudson tunnel, N.J. Gov. Christie agrees to consider options
TRENTON, N.J. - Under pressure from the Obama administration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) agreed Friday to reconsider his decision to cancel construction of a $9 billion rail tunnel connecting his state and New York City.
Christie announced Thursday that he was pulling the plug on the project because of runaway costs. The decision drew an outcry from Democrats who said it would cost the state thousands of badly needed construction jobs and cripple New Jersey's long-term economy.
After meeting for nearly an hour Friday with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the governor agreed to listen to ideas for pressing ahead with the project, known as ARC, for Access to the Region's Core. It is the biggest public transit project underway in the nation.
"The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged," Christie said in a statement. But he added that LaHood "presented several options to potentially salvage a trans-Hudson tunnel project."
LaHood said a group from the Transportation Department and NJ Transit - the commuter railroad overseeing the project - will review the options and report back to Christie within two weeks.
Neither Christie nor LaHood would disclose any of the ideas under discussion.
The tunnel, which has been in the works for about 20 years, would run underneath the Hudson River, connecting New Jersey with Manhattan. Currently, NJ Transit and Amtrak share a century-old, two-track tunnel that is operating at close to capacity.
The new tunnel would more than double the number of NJ Transit trains that could pass under the river, reducing congestion and delays. Officials also said it would create 6,000 construction jobs and add at least 40,000 new jobs after it is completed in 2018.
The federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had each pledged $3 billion to the project. New Jersey had committed $2.7 billion.
Construction began last year under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, the man Christie defeated. More than a half-billion dollars has been spent so far.
But over the years, the cost projections have nearly doubled. It started at $5 billion in 2005, but federal officials put the price tag in recent months at $9 billion to $10 billion. Christie this week estimated the cost at $11 billion to $14 billion, saying, "I simply cannot put the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey on what would be a never-ending hook."
- Associated Press