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.