For the past few years or perhaps centuries, New York has displayed a wee bit of a paternalistic attitude toward New Jersey. We scoff at the swamps and industrial areas that mar the landscape on the other side of the Hudson and view the state as some traffic-infested suburban wasteland rather than as a strong economic partner in the region. Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel felt like the final straw. If New Jersey doesn’t care about its ease of access into New York City, then why should New Yorkers care if Garden State residents can get here?
For the past few years, though, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to cut through this interstate rivalry, but he’s taking a very one-sided approach. Since Christie’s ARC move, Bloomberg has pushed the idea of sending the subway to Secaucus. It’s a New York-centric way of controlling cross-border travel, but it’s one that could see the light of day if the mayor can find money. Yet, much like ARC, it suffers from a lack of interstate cooperation. New York wasn’t putting much into ARC construction, and New Jersey is hardly chomping at the bit to fund a trans-Hudson rail tunnel, let alone an extension of New York City’s subway system.
Still, the 7 extension to Secaucus is the idea that just won’t die. Last week, New York City’s Economic Development Corporation termed it feasible, and Staten Island threw a fit. As the MTA remains skeptical and broke, Trenton has done little more than acknowledge this idea’s existence. The Garden State won’t complain if someone else wants to build a rail tunnel for them.
But what if New York can eke out more than just some cheerleading and a promise not to intervene from New Jersey? What if New Jersey could be a funding partner? Bringing in New York’s neighbors to the east would greatly improve the project’s odd, and yesterday, The Record of Bergen County endorsed the idea.
The ARC tunnel was an expensive proposition with limited benefits. The trains would run to a new subterranean station below 34th Street; it would not have given commuters access to Grand Central Terminal, as a similar project under the East River eventually will do for Long Island Rail Road commuters. Additionally, New Jersey was on the hook for all cost overruns. Christie killed the project citing those costs as the main reason.
As years pass, it seems more likely the governor wanted the state funds committed to ARC for other transportation projects. Christie has provided no leadership on a new tunnel project. He has publicly been open to all suggestions, but has not put his political muscle behind any – not the possibility of extending the subway to Secaucus or the Gateway project that would allow for more Amtrak trains to cross under the Hudson.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls the New York subway, does not support Bloomberg’s plan. It does not see it as an economically viable project. There were no financial specifics in the report issued last week, so we are skeptical the MTA can make a valid judgment at this juncture. No doubt, Bloomberg sees the benefits for Westside development with an enhanced No. 7 subway. But the subway runs both ways and access to the Westside in Manhattan is access to North Jersey. The subway expansion would spur development around the Meadowlands and further support the proposed American Dream project…
The greater metropolitan region needs more than one trans-Hudson solution. None of these solutions will be inexpensive and all will take many years to complete. As superstorm Sandy showed us, our infrastructure is vulnerable. We need more transportation alternatives – traditional rail, light rail and subway. And we need them soon.
The most convincing argument in favor of the 7 line extension is in this editorial. It’s not just about development in New York City, and it’s not just about development in New Jersey. It’s about the potential to improve cross-Hudson travel while connecting New Jersey commuters and residents with Grand Central and spurring on development in the nearby Secaucus and Hoboken communities. It’s about realizing the economic power of the region rather than the isolationism of each state and the silo approach to transit planning.
I’d like to see The Record take its suggestions one step further. New Jersey should become a partner in the trans-Hudson efforts. Right now, Bloomberg is pushing his 7 line plan with no sure signs of success, and it’s not clear his successor would pick up the effort come January. Meanwhile, Amtrak is the only entity behind the Gateway Tunnel right now as New York and New Jersey have taken a step back there. Only through an interstate embrace will the region move forward with a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Otherwise, this is all just talk from lame-duck politicians and planners dreaming big but with no money to back it up.