The largest public transit project in the nation, a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, was halted on Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie because, he said, the state could not afford its share of the project’s rising cost.Read the rest here.
Mr. Christie’s decision stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation because work on the tunnel was under way and $3 billion of federal financing had already been arranged — more money than had been committed to any other transit project in America.
The governor, a Republican, said he decided to withdraw his support for the project on Thursday after hearing from state transportation officials that the project would cost at least $2.5 billion more than its original price of $8.7 billion. He said that New Jersey would have been responsible for the overrun and that he could not put the taxpayers of the state “on what would be a never-ending hook.”
The tunnel was a project of New Jersey Transit. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which gets its money from tolls, committed $3 billion for the plan after committing billions of dollars for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.
In scrapping the project, Mr. Christie is forfeiting the money from the federal government and jeopardizing as much from the Port Authority. The state may also have to repay the federal government for its share of the $600 million that has already been spent on the tunnel.
The tunnel, which would have stretched under the Hudson from North Bergen, N.J., to a new station deep below 34th Street in Manhattan, was intended to double the number of trains that could enter the city from the west each day. The project’s planners said the additional trains would alleviate congestion on local roads, reduce pollution, help the growth of the region’s economy and raise property values for suburban homeowners.
The tunnel was also supposed to provide jobs for 6,000 construction workers just as some other big transit infrastructure projects in the city, like the Second Avenue subway, were winding down.
Instead, the contractors hired to dig the tunnel will soon start laying off workers.
“This was the project that I think everyone was counting on to revitalize the public-works sector,” said Denise M. Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York. “For construction workers that were counting on job opportunities, it’s a real blow to them.”
Mr. Christie admitted that the cancellation would be costly but he said it would be more prudent for the state to withdraw sooner rather than later. He said he also expected to be able to redirect the Port Authority’s $3 billion to other projects in the state, though he did not identify any.
When Mr. Christie told Ray LaHood, the federal transportation secretary, about his decision, Mr. LaHood demanded to meet with the governor to discuss the matter further. The two were scheduled to meet on Friday afternoon, but Mr. Christie gave no indication that he could be swayed.
Wonders never cease. I have heard good things about this guy and am beginning to believe at least some of them may be true.