And there it goes again. The Star-Ledger is once again reporting that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will kill the ARC Tunnel when its two-week reprieve is up on Friday unless alternative funding sources can be identified in the meantime. Based upon comments Christie has issued on the record, the future of this long-planned and badly-needed tunnel may not be bright at all.
Christie said he was comfortable walking away from the project unless the federal government finds another source of money to cover cost overruns on the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project, which is projected by Christie’s advisers to cost $2.3 billion to $5.3 billion more than the original $8.7 billion price tag. “I don’t want to hear about the jobs it will create. If I don’t have the money for the payroll,” it will not create the jobs, Christie said. “This is not a difficult decision for me.”
The governor killed the project on Oct. 7 after saying the real cost would be at least $11 billion and that he did not want to put state taxpayers on a “never-ending hook.” The next day, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood persuaded the governor to wait two weeks to explore funding options. “Every person who has criticized this decision, ask them a follow-up,” Christie said this morning. “How would you pay for it? I can’t write the check if there is no money in the account.”
Speaking to rail proponents in Westfield around the same time, [NJ Transit Executive Director Jim] Weinstein said, “At this point, I don’t see how we can afford it.”
Despite these signs, proponents are still pushing hard for the tunnel. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has put forward a We Need ARC website designed to spur on voter support, and the RPA has run a newspaper ad for $25,000 decrying Christie’s decision. “New Jersey needs ARC,” Tom Wright, executive director of the RPA, said. “Unless transit capacity under the Hudson River can grow with demand, New Jersey has a hard cap on its economic potential. With the 70,000 additional daily riders who would have used ARC, New Jersey would be more connected to New York City and the expanding global economy, companies and workers would continue locating in the Garden State, home construction would pick up, and the value of homes near transit stations would rise by an estimated $18 billion.”
Earlier today, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg hosted two rallies in support of the tunnel, but Christie, in response to recent studies, simply cited costs. “It’s $2-$5 billion over budget,” Chrstie said of Lautenberg’s support, “and if he really is concerned about it, he should go find the money to pay for it.”
After the jump, the RPA’s ad is embedding. Notably, it disputes Christie’s assertion that the project is truly over budget. “Federal and state officials agree that ARC can be built on budget,” it says, “and there won’t be any overruns if New Jersey manages its end of the project.” Click the image below to enlarge.