Home ARC Tunnel Mulling the 7, Christie disputes ARC payments

Mulling the 7, Christie disputes ARC payments

by Benjamin Kabak

'Macy's Basement' has become a rallying cry for those who opposed the ARC Tunnel. (Click to enlarge)

We join this episode of As The ARC Turns already in the progress…

When last we heard from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he had recently announced a plan to borrow billions after quashing ARC over concerns over cost overruns. The federal government had asked Christie to return $271 million in New Starts funding, but Christie balked at the request. Today, he fired back in a big way.

“We are not paying the money back,” the New Jersey Governor said on Ask the Governor yesterday, and today, the state’s lawyers made that position official. In a 55-page filing, embedded at the end of this post, New Jersey insists that it both cannot afford to pay back the $271 million and is not legally required to do so.

Jim O’Grady from WNYC has more:

Tuesday’s submission to the FTA, filed by Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs, argues no repayment is required because the project was cancelled for reasons beyond the governor’s control — or more precisely, of New Jersey Transit’s, which was overseeing the project. It was the project’s estimated over-runs in a time of “severe financial stress” for New Jersey that made shutting down the project unavoidable, the filing argues.

The filing further claims the FTA is only authorized to ask for money classified as New Starts funds and that $225.5 million of the $271 million doesn’t fit that description. “The FTA overstates the funds that are even at issue and makes a demand for repayment that is far broader than authorized by statute,” read a statement accompanying the filing.

Christie is also claiming that preliminary engineering for the ARC tunnel is proving useful to the study of other projects, such as the proposed extension of the No. 7 subway line from Manhattan to New Jersey and upgrades to Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor.

Ultimately, the submission says that New Jersey is not in a fiscal position to remit the money, even if it will get half of it back. “Repaying any amount would be deeply counterproductive and harmful to the citizens and taxpayers of NJ,” it states. “The work produced with these funds has enduring value to future projects. Moreover, compelling NJT to repay these funds will force NJT to cancel projects it can afford to undertake to reduce congestion, enhance the condition of critical infrastructure and create needed jobs.”

The FTA has yet to comment.

Meanwhile, Christie let slip this week that he has had talks with the Bloomberg Administration over the mayor’s plan to send the 7 to Secaucus. He didn’t say much, but his words offer up a tantalizing glimpse at a project I still think is a pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

“We’re having conversations with Mayor Bloomberg and others regarding the extension of the No. 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, which would do what we really wanted the ARC tunnel to do originally,” the governor said. “We’d like to get [commuters] in a more efficient way over to the East Side of Manhattan,” he said. “That was the original ARC plan. It got morphed into this plan that has a multibillion-dollar terminal in the basement of Macy’s, blocks away from any other connecting train.”

After the jump, read New Jersey’s filings with the FTA.

Opposition to Demand

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R. Graham January 26, 2011 - 6:30 pm

What I would like to ask him is, what did he do with the money?

orbit7er January 27, 2011 - 11:02 pm

Governor Christie has cut $300 Million from NJ Transit’s budget while cutting not a single
penny from the $7 Billion NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway highway widening boondoggle.
He increased fares by up to 60% for NJ Transit public transit riders.
At the same time Governor Christie has not increased the NJ gas tax, actually LOWER than the sales tax,
by a single penny nor increased any auto/truck fees by a penny.
He decreased public transit services and some routes altogether.
Ironically enough he spent $411 Million on “highway decongestion” by adding more highway lanes
even as he CUT $300 Million from public transit which would actually take cars off the
crowded deteriorating roads.
Well one clue may be the usual culprit – it was recently discovered by excellent investigative
reporting by the Star Ledger that some of the top contributors to Christie’s “Reform Jersey Now”
campaign were Ferreira Construction which received $174 Million from NJ Turnpike contracts
and George C Harms Construction which received $30 Million from highway projects.
(see: http://www.nj.com/news/index.s....._624k.html

But the other likely reason is far more important –

I will continue that in Part 2…
If any of you have not seen it I would strongly urge you to view:


for background,

orbit7er January 27, 2011 - 11:08 pm

Continuing on why Governor Christie cut ARC even as he slashed NJ Transit…
One reason may be the usual contributions and influence from highway Construction Companies.

But the other likely reason is far more important –
Governor Christie believes as do most of our current leaders and the public that
somehow we will continue “Business As Usual”.
He does not understand that the twin crises we face are Peak Oil and Climate Change which are intimately connected in the USA as 70% of our oil usage is for transportation,
primarily cars and trucks, which also causes 38% of our greenhouse emissions.
(and more than 50% of our balance of payments deficit!)
Peak oil hit first when oil spiked to $147 per barrel in July,2008 which has been the
greatest global production of all forms of oil in history, which in turn led to exurban
defaults and the whole real estate and then financial collapse.
Green Transit. i.e. Rail, Light Rail, buses, shuttles, Transit Villages are the most
important step to resolve both these issues by dramatically reducing both oil usage
and greenhouse emissions.
Many people are either unaware or wish to deny “Peak Oil” as some sort of
crazed conspiracy theory.
However no less than James Schlesinger, first Energy Secretary of the US,
Secretary of War and CIA Director under both Republicans and Democrats
recently declared that

“Peakists” had won the intellectual argument, except for some minor details about precise timing, but that, by and large, everyone recognized that there were limits on our capacity to increase the production of crude oil, as we have, steadily, since World War II.”


If it is true as the International Energy Agency finally admitted a few weeks ago
that we have actually passed global peak oil then it means that it is not just a question
that we would LIKE to build Rail – but that every single highway expansion is burning
oil for bulldozers and heavy construction equipment which will be burned forever.
Governor Christie is absolutely right to say that ARC or any transit project will go
over budget – because just like highway expansion it will be inevitably using oil
in some fashion which will get more and more expensive.
Will we be building a bridge to a future bereft of fossil fuels and their pollution or will we
be investing in evermore highways which cannot possibly be sustainable without fossil fuels?
If anyone on this mail list has not seen it I would strongly urge following the pathbreaking
series in the Nation on “Peak Oil and Climate Change”:


Even many Environmentalists, while acknowledging the problems of Climate Change, are
like ostriches when it comes to Peak Oil and indeed “Peak Everything” as Richard Heinberg puts it.
So-called “Greens” are trumpeting the electric car as somehow resolving the problem of
climate change. How do electric cars solve our transit dilemmas of peak oil, energy shortages
and climate change?
It turns out that 1 electric car will consume 20% more energy than
a whole, already over-consuming US house:


Meanwhile Google’s enlightened leadership, while investing in windmills is also wasting
millions to invest in the “robo-car” which will solve our traffic congestion problems
by automatically driving for us. Of course with private personal cars even a robo-car
will have to slow down to maintain safe driving distance of a car length per 10 miles per hour.

What if Google and Environmentalists considered a technology that could:

1)Be ridden without any driving by the passengers
2)could travel “bumper to bumper” safely at over 100 or even 200 or more miles per hour
3)is electric powered
4)uses 1/5th the green space
5)can travel through snow and most weather conditions???

Of course that marvelous technology is the TRAIN!

We cannot afford to sit around and wait to get this country moving to restore our Rail
and public transit. Once we have burned up all our oil and fossil fuels (probably coal for
electric cars) on continuing our auto addiction, we will not have the fuel for construction
equipment to restore the alternative.

John-2 January 26, 2011 - 6:49 pm

Christie did get a bit of support from Newark Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine in his battle with Chuck Schumer over the ARC project, including pointing out what a piece of idiocy the ARC “Train to Macy’s basement” as approved under Corzine was. But all the recent reports about Christie’s plans to use other ARC funds for road projects aren’t going to win him many friends among N.J. commuters, which no doubt explains why the No. 7 extension could remain in the news, even if nobody’s ready to step forward with the funding.

Bolwerk January 26, 2011 - 7:36 pm

I still think 7 to Secaucus is an excellent idea. It’s absolutely true that ARC was a terrible choice for a connection to Midtown East, and the 7 option is a much better choice for getting people to the east side and west side alike.

Donald January 26, 2011 - 7:40 pm

SO Christie doesn’t have the $270 million to return to the feds, but he has the same $270 million to extend the 7 line?

R. Graham January 26, 2011 - 7:44 pm

Point blank he doesn’t have the money. I bet he already started using it to fix his roads, but I know one thing. He better cut his budget to get it back especially if he’s going to claim to be all in for the 7 to Secaucus Junction.

Donald January 26, 2011 - 7:52 pm

Well, just the other day, Christie said he wants to cut the corporate tax in NJ. You can’t cut taxes and claim poverty at the same time.

R. Graham January 26, 2011 - 7:54 pm

He’s a hypocrite. I’m all for cutting taxes and cutting spending, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but considering his waist line it looks as if that’s what he is trying to do.

bob January 27, 2011 - 5:35 pm

He expects NY to pay for it. Recall that was one of his complaints about ARC was that NY wasn’t paying anything directly.

Patton Boggs is a big name high cost law firm. So he’s going to lose at least a few million right there in fees.

I also note his complaint that ARC somehow was “morphed” to West Side only. Wasn’t NJT (and the PA, whom over which the NJ governor has extensive influence) running the project?

patrick C January 26, 2011 - 9:06 pm


BBnet3000 January 26, 2011 - 9:16 pm

“That was the original ARC plan. It got morphed into this plan that has a multibillion-dollar terminal in the basement of Macy’s, blocks away from any other connecting train.”

Lets face it, he’s right about that.

Taking the funds from this and using them to widen the freeway was a slap in the face though.

capt subway January 26, 2011 - 9:39 pm

He is right about the dead end tunnel in the basement of Macy’s. But why did he never consider a return to the original plan, from many moons ago, to bring the ARC tunnel into the existing Penn Sta. In so doing billions could have been saved and the project would have made so much more sense, both in terms of redundancy, for Amtk, NJT and the LIRR, as well as in terms of connectivity and for possible through-routing of trains.

pete January 27, 2011 - 4:42 pm

Because the EIS/enviromental BS couldn’t be changed at that point. Change any part of the plan and you go back 10 or 20 years.

bob January 27, 2011 - 5:38 pm

Actually that change came very late, just before the final EIS. At the public hearing the project managers said it was due to the Corp of Engineers requiring the tunnel to go much deeper under the shipping channel, so there was no way to get back to PS level at any realistic grade.

Why they didn’t talk to the Corp of Engineers about that years earlier is what I don’t understand.

Alon Levy January 27, 2011 - 6:27 pm

Because this is a bullshit excuse. Even with the modifications, connecting to the existing Penn Station was technically feasible. When asked point-blank after the cancellation, NJT replied that the connection was dropped because for capacity reasons (read: “through-running was not invented here”), nearly all trains would go to the cavern anyway.

Bolwerk January 26, 2011 - 10:00 pm

Of course. And he did nothing to try to fix that. He simply pissed the opportunity away.

bob January 27, 2011 - 5:41 pm

At the last public hearing I went too, the project staff did say the upper level of the new station could be extended later. However NYC won’t allow anything to threaten Water Tunnel 1 until after WT 3 is fully operational and WT 1 can be shut down for maintenance.

capt subway January 26, 2011 - 9:46 pm

As I’d stated here before, I don’t see why NYC or NY State should spend a penny extending the #7 to NJ. That money could be better spent on subway and rail expansion right here in the 5 boroughs of NYC: Archer Ave extension to S/E Queens, revival of the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Line from Rego Pk to JFK, the full length 2nd Ave subway, IRT Nostrand Jct reconfiguration, etc, etc, etc.

Why make it easier for people from NJ to come to NYC, take our jobs, and the money, and run back to NJ. Who needs Snookie anyway?

PS: a better idea, if you really want to go to NJ? Extend the “L” from 14 St. Why? Bigger “B” div cars.

Bolwerk January 26, 2011 - 10:01 pm

L is an okay idea, but it doesn’t exactly nail the job centers in Midtown, particularly Midtown East, the way the 7 does.

Al D January 27, 2011 - 11:11 am

Extending the L would solve the delay problems resulting from turning trains at 8th Ave, but it would overburden the already overburdened transfer at Union Square to the 4 5 6, i.e. the same issue with the 7 at Grand Central.

Bolwerk January 29, 2011 - 12:52 pm

At least some of that should be fixed by the SAS.

Judge January 26, 2011 - 10:22 pm

I though we were all residents/citizens of the same metropolitan area and country.
New York certainly does have pressing transit needs of its own, but why should interstate parochialism prevent legitimate regional needs from being addressed?

capt subway January 26, 2011 - 10:42 pm

I agree with you – up to a point. But NJ elected Christie and he killed the ARC tunnel. I fail to see why we in NY should come to their rescue. Besides, an extension of the #7, unlike a proper ARC tunnel, connected to the existing Penn Sta, does little for regional connectivity and/or regional rail/NE Corridor sorely needed redundancy in its most heavily traversed segment.

R. Graham January 26, 2011 - 10:49 pm

I agree only because there are real life budget problems these days. If NJ’s governor flushes the opportunity down the toilet then we need to look at what we can do on our side to help improve transit for NYers. Congestion pricing would help with NJ having to pay a portion as well.

Bolwerk January 27, 2011 - 2:44 pm

From a metropolitan standpoint, the 7 to Secaucus probably does as much if not more for trans-Hudson commuters. Many of them would have to transfer once they got to Penn anyway. If anything, a transfer to the 7 at Secaucus saves some people a trip on the A, C, E, 1, 2, or 3 Train – possibly followed by a transfer to the 7 or a bus. Its drawback is it does nothing for regional and long distance services, and very little to relieve Penn Station.

Jacquelina Frank January 28, 2011 - 2:22 am

What’s needed is a regional transit district like what got BART built. The district would spread over two, and possibly three, states (New York, New Jersey, and maybe Connecticut). It would take upon itself the role of planning and funding transit and transportation, and electing its officials (it would be a democracy) and charging its taxes, fares, and tolls. Congressional approval would be needed for this sort of thing (it would be a joint area between states, and so Congress needs to okay it). I consider the current Port Authority and MTA to be both inadequate and responsible to statewide political pressures, rather than NY Metro Area-wide political pressures, with the governors playing powerful roles.

Bolwerk January 30, 2011 - 12:05 pm

One option, but not necessary. What’s needed is through running, and a political willingness to let accountants allocate subsidy costs accordingly. This includes ending political obstruction preventing interagency cooperation and rigid work rules.

John-2 January 27, 2011 - 12:08 am

Depends on how much more attractive Hudson Yards is if it’s bi- directional accessible, as opposed to only having a direct link via 42nd Street. If the Secaucus connection makes the area more attractive to developers and boosts the property valuations and other revenue-enhancers for NYC by creating easy rail access for N.J. commuters, without simply shifting jobs from some other part of Manhattan, then it’s a good long-term deal for both states (though even if that’s the case, New Jersey still should be the one putting up the bulk of the non-federal money for any cross-Hudson route for the No. 7 train, especially if there are any additional stops inserted between 34th St. and Secaucus Junction).

al January 27, 2011 - 12:24 am

The L runs 8 car B-Division trains (8 cars x 145 per car=1160), which isn’t much of a difference to 11 car A-Division trains on the 7 (11 cars x 110 per car = 1210). Unless you extend all the platforms on the Canarsie Line, they’re comparable.

Al D January 27, 2011 - 11:07 am

Maybe we can get NJ to pay for that

capt subway January 27, 2011 - 11:18 am

The “L” line stations are actually long enough for nine (9) 60 ft “B” Div cars, as the line was originally built to accommodate eight (8) BMT “AB” cars, which were 67 feet long. Of course with the ridiculous 4 and 5 car train-sets the TA has been sold a bill of goods on it makes it difficult putting together trains of varying lengths. The requisite number of single cars would need to be bought.

Gary Wong January 26, 2011 - 11:44 pm

I know this seems like a rather simple solution but can’t the federal government just withhold the next $270 NJ would be entitled to, for whatever purpose they’re supposed to go to?

Gary Wong January 26, 2011 - 11:44 pm

I meant $271 million, not just $270!

Bruce January 27, 2011 - 7:48 pm

My thoughts exactly. Isn’t the Federal Govt. clever enough to figure out how to punish Christie?

Aaron January 27, 2011 - 9:43 pm

Many appropriations are already set in stone as recurring disbursements. LaHood would need to get Congress to agree to such an action, which seems highly unlikely – even states who were uninvolved wouldn’t want to set a precedent that could later smack them in the faces.

DOT, however, could make Christie’s life miserable in terms of approving future funding for other projects. And maybe they will. But it’s hard to figure out how much misery converts to $270m, and there’s a legitimate question as to if that would backfire and instead make DOT look like bullies to the region.

AlexB January 27, 2011 - 10:47 am

I like the idea of the 7 extension, but if it works so well to get commuters to the east side of Manhattan, why don’t LIRR riders transfer at Woodside more often? If you are coming from NJ, I still think it would be faster to go to Penn Station and take the E to the East Side, or the 1/2/3 to the 7 or shuttle, or even the soon to be improved M34.

I am somewhat inclined to agree with capt subway’s idea of extending the L, just because it would actually increase the speed of trips to the 14th St area (and further downtown) whereas the 7 would just provide more redundancy.

Another idea would be to extend the 7 to Secaucus and then convert the Main Line of NJ Transit to subway standards as far as the Glen Rock station, although this would make the 7 one of the longest lines in the city (about 30 miles). This would provide more one seat rides to Manhattan, but I’m not sure people living on this line would prefer less comfortable subway cars for such long commutes.

Al D January 27, 2011 - 11:09 am

“…although this would make the 7 one of the longest lines in the city (about 30 miles)”

That’s just it though, it wouldn’t be in the city. And why stop at Glen Rock? Montclair would make a better terminal.

Heoh January 27, 2011 - 5:00 pm

“I like the idea of the 7 extension, but if it works so well to get commuters to the east side of Manhattan, why don’t LIRR riders transfer at Woodside more often?”

Because the ride on the 7 from Woodside to Grand Central:
1) Is extremely slow, especially the stretch from Queensboro Plaza to Vernon Blvd
2) Is extremely croweded due to most express trains being full already from the Main St and Junction crowds
3) Contains way too many stops, especially when express trains aren’t running

Presumbly a 7 extension to Secaucus would have none of these flaws by design.

AlexB January 27, 2011 - 5:28 pm

It is crowded, but the express is relatively quick, and the transfer is relatively easy. Hopstop says 24 minutes, which makes me realize why people don’t take it (not to mention the double fare). I don’t think the trip from Secaucus can get much faster than that and I don’t think it would compete with just walking or taking the subway from Penn.

– The 7 from Woodside to Grand Central is about 5 miles.
– The 7 from Secaucus to Grand Central is about 6 miles.
– On the express, the 7 from Woodside stops 5 times (Queensboro Plaza, 45th Rd, Hunterspoint, Vernon, Grand Central).
– From Secaucus, the 7 would stop a minimum of 4 times (Javits, Times Sq, 5th Ave, Grand Central).
– Ideally, it would stop about 9 times (with additional stops at Tonnelle, Palisade Ave, Stevens Institute of Technology, 23rd St and 10th Ave.)

Andrew January 27, 2011 - 10:16 pm

It’s not 24 minutes. The MTA Trip Planner comes up with 15-16 minutes on the express or 17 minutes on the local.

Heoh January 28, 2011 - 9:59 am

Obviously you need to actually take the train in order to understand the full experience. The time might be short, but trying to fit yourself in a crowded train while the 7 is slowly turning left and right during that stretch I mentioned is not a pleasant experience, especially compared to the comforts of the LIRR.

The 7 train will be empty at Secaucus, the route would be relatively straight with the train being able to achieve higher speeds than the 7 can in Queens, the stations that it does stop at will be much more useful for commuters, etc. I don’t think its a fair comparison at all.

Alon Levy January 27, 2011 - 6:31 pm

How convenient is the transfer? Is it like Marble Hill, where it requires walking half a crosstown block out-of-system; Jamaica, where it’s in-system but requires slow elevator rides; or Newark Penn, where it’s cross-platform in the inbound direction and close to it in the outbound direction?

AlexB January 27, 2011 - 5:03 pm

I’d stop at Glen Rock because it allows the Bergen County Line to exist on its own schedule and not have to split service between Secaucus and Glen Rock (or Ridgewood). Montclair would be a good route too as it is a dense neighborhood with closely spaces stops, but I don’t think the stops past Montclair are suited for subway service. Once you’ve converted a line to being “mass transit”, it can’t also handle commuter “railroads”.

In other words, you’d have to build another railroad alongside the Montclair-Boonton Line whereas you could use the physical tracks of the Main Line.

Alon Levy January 27, 2011 - 7:24 pm

I can think of at least 3 reasons to prefer Montclair:

1. The MTA and NJT should be lobbying hard to gut all FRA rules for separate reasons – namely, they force mainline commuter rail to be super-expensive to operate. Once the rules are gone, track-sharing between urban rail and commuter rail becomes a possibility.

2. Montclair is a bigger destination than Glen Rock (though it’s not bigger than Paterson, which is the correct terminus for subways going to that part of Jersey).

3. The Lower Boonton Line serves some reasonably dense, or densifiable, communities in western Hudson County.

AlexB January 27, 2011 - 7:59 pm

Right. If you can gut the FRA rules, everything I said is moot. I agree that Paterson is more important than Glen Rock, but I figure you might as well take the train to where the Main and Bergen Lines converge if it’s only a bit further.

Donald January 27, 2011 - 8:33 pm

I don’t know who got the idea that the 7 line is goig to be extended to Glen Rock, Montclair, or any other suburb. The peopel who live in theses towns will never support such a plan since the subway will make it easier for the “bad elements” to come to their neighborhoods.


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