Home ARC Tunnel A begrudging appreciation of Chris Christie’s political smokescreens

A begrudging appreciation of Chris Christie’s political smokescreens

by Benjamin Kabak

As long-time readers of Second Ave. Sagas know, I’m not exactly a fan of the GOP presidential aspirant who occasionally visits New Jersey these days to remind that he is indeed still the governor. Outside of any red-and-blue ideological concerns or the way he chooses to face down those who disagree with him, his support of transit has been abysmal. From canceling the ARC Tunnel to moving the money for transit to various road-widening and repair initiatives to his games with the Port Authority, I’m eagerly looking forward to someone sitting in Trenton who has a better mind for the way PATH and NJ Transit feed the symbiotic relationship between New Jersey and New York.

But despite my dislike of the Governor, I am impressed with his grasp of political machinations and press malleability. Throughout his years as Governor, Christie has made some decisions that should, by any stretch, thoroughly anger his constituents, and sometimes, they do. But the real political impact of his actions are often ignored for the sideshow of the better story. Weather the temporary storm to escape permanent damage.

Let’s take this PATH Train issue. It’s a shared problem with Gov. Cuomo, but Gov. Cuomo’s contempt for anyone who doesn’t drive one of his muscle cars has been out in the open for decades. It’s my strong belief that the hullabaloo over the Governor-endorsed report that mentions cutting overnight PATH service as a last resort is nothing but a smokescreen. In essence, reporters are barking up the wrong story because no one every planned or plans to cut overnight PATH service. But by leading with this one line in a 90-page report, the fact that Christie and Cuomo vetoed strong reform legislation for a report of recommendations is conveniently ignored.

It’s now been nearly two weeks since the Christmas Saturday Veto and still New Jersey commentators are struggling with the PATH move. Steve Strunsky for NJ Advance Media penned a long piece analyzing the “real reason” he feels Port Authority may target PATH. He explored political in-fighting between the Democratic mayors of New Jersey’s waterfront PATH communities and Christie; he pondered leverage over the unions; he opined on privatization or a transfer of PATH to NJ Transit (or maybe, as I think would make sense, the MTA). He didn’t mention PATH as a cover for a veto even though Port Authority commissioners have all but said as much. They won’t cut PATH service, but the media loves this story.

In a way, this is an echo of Christie’s most costly move for the long-term mobility of the region: the decision to axe the ARC Tunnel. Christie established his conservative bona fides by canceling the project despite the fact that his cost overrun projections were based on spurious data and that New Jersey likely could have worked out a deal with the feds and even New York to split overruns. But while Christie faced some criticism for the move, it was muted especially from New Jersey transit advocates who never supported the deep cavern alignment for the tunnel and wanted the Alt G version instead. So while Christie sometimes faces irate commuters on Twitter, he gets a pass, and editorial writers who try to tell the full story face a Sisyphean task.

Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — the Port Authority reform report that Christie signed endorsed a new Hudson River crossing which allowed for another round of hand-wringing over Christie’s duplicity. Again, though, the focus has been on the inconsistency of these statements rather than on the affect of Christie and Cuomo’s veto of the reform measures. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Finally, as a Giants fan, I’d be remiss not to mention the New Jersey governor’s love of the Cowboys. I don’t begrudge anyone their sports fandom; I went to high school with Upper West Siders who were Braves fans in the early 1990s and know a bunch of people who subject themselves to Mets and Knicks games on a regular basis. Christie happens to be a Cowboys fan, but so what? While the press focuses on how that may play in Pennsylvania or anywhere during an election cycle, news breaks that Christie may have accepted gifts in violation of New Jersey ethics laws and may have funneled work to companies associated with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. It doesn’t get nearly the same press because the fandom has dominated the conversation. Yet again, the wrong story for the wrong reasons takes away from the problem.

Now I’m sure some of you will accuse me of focusing on Christie’s negatives. From where I sit concerned with regional mobility, he hasn’t done much good, but except for the unfolding stories with Jones, these aren’t even scandals I’ve mentioned. They’re simply news stories covered from angles pushed subtly by the Governor that miss the big long-term picture. I ultimately have to tip my hat to the way he runs the conversation and pits allies against allies while burying bad news behind smokescreens. That’s a political force to be reckoned with, and his counterpart in New York has done the same thing a few times as well. Again, though, I’ll say it: The PATH train cuts aren’t the issue; the veto is. The ARC alignment wasn’t the issue; the argument for the cancellation was. Dig deeper.

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Eric F January 8, 2015 - 9:03 am

“moving the money for transit to a turnpike widening initiative”

Uh, what? The turnpike widening initiative was a Corzine initiative. The financing for it was turnpike tolls.

You know that.

tacony January 8, 2015 - 10:38 am

Sounds like he sort of conflated some issues in an attempt to simplify a complicated situation: Christie canceled ARC and the money that was originally to go to ARC was moved to fund the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is supposed to pay for all sorts of road projects throughout the state. The Transportation Trust Fund is so indebted that it doesn’t seem to really pay for anything other than its own debt service anymore. The Turnpike had to raise tolls to pay for bonding for the widening project.

Christie also then used Port Authority money to fund the rehab of the Pulaski Skyway under the guise of it being essentially an “access route” to the Lincoln Tunnel. (See: http://www.nj.com/politics/ind.....an_da.html)

The missing detail in all of this is that NJ has the lowest gas tax in the lower 48 and of course Christie preferred to steal money from transit than to raise it to a level that would make the TTF sustainable.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 10:47 am

The Turnpike raised tolls in two steps I think, all per the Corzine plan. There were no additional toll increases set in motion by CC. The toll increases (again, the Corzine step increases) were padded over the cost of widening to fund ARC. The ARC funds were moved to the NJ transportation trust fund. That fund covers both the NJDOT and NJ Transit. One can make the point that some of the ARC money went to NJT to buy new rail cars and the like.

Not a big fan of cancelling ARC without a backup plan, but let’s be honest about what actually happened.

What has NOT happened under Christie is some sort of transit retrenchment in NJ. Instead PATH projects continue apace, every one of which is pilloried on this website, NJ Transit built out its light rail a bit and is generally keeping things going as it always has. There seems to be some visceral need to paint Christie as pro-car anti-transit, and in reality that’s just not accurate. He hasn’t expanded the road network beyond the Corzine plan and hasn’t changed NJ’s transit system beyond the much-discussed ARC cancellation.

Benjamin Kabak January 8, 2015 - 11:26 am

The Harrison PATH station was a good plan. The upgrades to the signal system – which could boost capacity and are designed to improve safety – are good plans. The others are pilloried because they’re terrible wastes of money and resources.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 12:28 pm

The Harrison station rebuild is one aspect of the CC administration that I actually like. He has taken several projects that have been languishing for literally decades and getting them done. Harrison station, Bayonne Bridge roadway raising and Goethals Bridge replacement fall into this category. What he has not done is come up with any new plans or any big build or innovation ideas on his own.

I’d like to see PATH extended and the airport extension is probably a very good idea. But the very fact that CC proposes a one billion dollar PATH extension puts the lie to the notion that he’s somehow categorically anti-transit.

Ken January 8, 2015 - 3:27 pm

I recently drove the Jersey Turnpike from the Verazzano entrance to the southern end at Delaware. Based on my experiences with Dallas tolls (I live in Dallas),I thought the Jersey Turnpike was cheap and there should be plenty of room to raise the tolls.

I disagree that road tolls should be used to finance mass transit. Mass transit needs to find independent financing. I think unrealistic road tolls and gas taxes cause financing to go in the wrong direction. Roads and mass transit both need to be self financing. (Self financing includes taxes, tolls, fares, etc.) Dallas and surrounding cities use 1 cent sales tax to finance mass transit. That has been in effect for 30 years.

Also, cannot disagree with Christie’s decision to cancel ARC. Based on ESA, 2nd & 7th Ave projects, costs are not projected and managed. Based on experiences with other project, ARC may not have been completed until 2040 and cost four times the estimate. If ARC is such a good project, someone would have picked it up after Christie cancelled it.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 4:08 pm

You’ve come to the wrong place. Everyone here is quite sure that ARC would have come in on time and on budget, if it wasn’t for that meddling Christie. Meanwhile the 7 Train extension will be delayed 3 years while the MTA figures out how to install an escalator, and East Side Access is delayed two years for every year of construction that elapses.

A regional sales tax would be a perfectly fine way to fund transit in my estimation.

VLM January 8, 2015 - 4:19 pm

I can’t decide if it’s worse than you’re insufferable, oversimplifying everything or just flat-out wrong. I have little desire to waste my time arguing with you, but you should read through at least some of the coverage on the reality of the ARC Tunnel decision. This one from MSNBC is particularly informative.

Ken January 8, 2015 - 4:59 pm

Based on recent NY/NJ mass transit projects, ARC would come in way over budget and very late. Not sure if managing the project from NJ would keep costs or time frames under control. If ARC is such a good project, why didn’t another government entity pick up the project and potential cost overruns. Does anyone know if someone else would have picked up the cost overruns instead of NJ? Sounds like Corzine (or someone on his staff) negotiated a bad deal and Christie dropped it. The cross Hudson tunnels are still a critical need. Instead, the project is treated as a gravy train to blend money from taxpayers. You would think government would keep this in mind. Instead it is BAU (business as usual).

VLM January 8, 2015 - 5:05 pm

I don’t follow your argument. What other government entity in New Jersey that isn’t overseen by the governor do you think could have picked up this project?

It’s not particularly useful to compare ARC to ESA because ARC was new-build while the largest source of ESA delays concern preexisting infrastructure and inter-agency coordination. Based on track records, I’ll grant that ARC was likely to be over budget and later than 2018, but that’s not sufficient justification for canceling it, especially (a) based on long-term benefits and (b) when NJ would have been tasked with 14% of the overruns.

Your line about a gravy train makes no sense when you admit the tunnels are a critical need.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 5:17 pm

Poo poo poo

It was managed “from NJ,” with NJ Transit being the lead agency. Makes perfect sense, it was their private tunnel.

There weren’t any overruns to cover, so there was no reason for the Feds to pick any up. There was the risk of overruns. The Feds did make efforts to alleviate that concern, though I don’t remember what. Either way, Christie wasn’t having it.

ARC was a flawed project, there were risks with it, blah blah. Christie did nothing to fix that flaws or minimize the risks. He simply cancelled the project.

lawhawk January 9, 2015 - 1:20 pm

The FRA report issued at about the time of cancellation indicated that there’d be overruns and that NJT was in no way capable of reducing the chances of overruns. After all, NJT oversaw the Secaucus Junction build, which went from $85 million to $450 million, and only within the last few years came close to the rider projections (helped in large part by the opening of the nearby park/ride lot).

The feds didn’t want to be on the hook for the overruns either, and NY wanted no part of the project either, and no effort by the DoT was made to get this project done, so it withered on the vine after Christie killed ARC and reappropriated the monies.

As far as what Christie could have done to minimize the risks, I’m not sure he could do anything – short of demanding NJT use Alt G rather than build out their own tunnel alignment that would have necessitated building a separate terminus.

Besides, at the time he canceled the project, he needed to balance the TTF and had other projects that needed to get done, so the funding for ARC was cannibalized, leaving mass transit riders in the lurch for at least the next decade.

Sandy comes along, and now we’re going to watch everyone scramble to try and keep the 2 tunnels open while everything about them corrodes and falls apart (as I’m writing, Amtrak is going through with their daily de-icing hazard teams, so it’s 1-tracking for the next hour or so).

Ken January 9, 2015 - 6:24 pm

If the ARC tunnel (or replacement) is really important, east coast local and federal government representatives make sure it happens. The costs are not prohibitive if it really needs to happen and it is not treated as a ‘cash cow’. The costs for new tunnels is peanuts based on other NJ/NY transportation expenditures.

JE January 8, 2015 - 5:50 pm

I am obliged to drive between DC and NY two to three times per month and, while it’s worthwhile discussing how the road widening was ultimately paid for, thank heavens the Turnpike is now six lanes starting at Exit 6, surely its busiest interchange south of the Parkway.

Larry Littlefield January 8, 2015 - 11:18 am

What happens when three decades of future selling by Generation Greed come home to roost?

The answer in New Jersey is not good. After handing out the goodies to those on the inside and those cashing in and moving out, the political class refuses to responsibly hand out the pain. It keeps taking, taking, taking from the future until there is no future left.

Christie inherited a disaster. He talking like an honest broker who would take it on. Instead, he decided the truth was bad for his career. Which is, of course, true.

al January 9, 2015 - 10:00 am

If you compare Christie with a his fellow Blue or Purple state Republican governors, he brings up the rear.

Alon Levy January 8, 2015 - 12:03 pm

I don’t know how right you are about Christie’s political acumen – he was running barely behind Hillary Clinton in the polls until the GWB scandal broke out, and now he’s running well behind her, like the other Republican presidential candidates.

SEAN January 8, 2015 - 4:34 pm

Why is that. If CC can screw with the GWB, imagine what he could do on the national or international level. He’s got the balls for it & everyone knows it.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 4:43 pm

Does his polling really matter? He has to win the primary first, a big “if” for any possible contender. Likewise, Hillary’s victory is far from assured even if she runs, and she was the favorite for years before losing to Obama in 2008. The general election is 23 months away, and I can’t think of many non-incumbent favorites 23 months away from the general who actually won a primary, and the only clear-cut case where one won a primary and then the general is GWB.

B. Clinton, Kerry, McCain (’08), and Obama all vanquished competitive opponents. Dole (’96) had an easy primary, but even he only emerged as the frontrunner early in 1996. Party functionaries loved Romney in ’08, but I don’t think his victory was clear until several primary rounds in.

Eric January 9, 2015 - 4:54 am

Yeah, I have absolutely no idea why anyone would vote for H. Clinton other than “she’s not a Republican” or “we need a woman president”.

Alon Levy January 10, 2015 - 5:04 am

If Frankenstein’s creature ran against Christie, I’d urge people to vote for the creature. Only major US politician I’d have any doubts about against Christie is Cuomo.

Can’t speak for the people who keep backing Hillary in the polls, but I imagine it has to do with the fact that a) she didn’t just cause traffic jams to score a political point, b) her last name is not Bush, c) she is not a Confederate revanchist, and d) she doesn’t want to privatize Social Security. The Republican field is just that weak this cycle. (Yes, I’m ignoring Pence and other people who the polls aren’t paying attention to. I’m talking only about the majors so far – Christie, Bush, Paul, Cruz, etc.)

Nathanael January 10, 2015 - 12:17 pm

“If Frankenstein’s creature ran against Christie, I’d urge people to vote for the creature. Only major US politician I’d have any doubts about against Christie is Cuomo.”

Sam Brownback, expert in faith-based fantasy budgeting who bankrupted Kansas? Mike Huckabee, Dominionist supporter of holy war? Rick Scott, convicted felon? Scott Walker, destroyer of Wisconsin?

I really do hope none of these awful people make it into the Presidential primaries, but they are all trying, and they’ve all managed to be elected as governors, so they have damn good chances.

“(Yes, I’m ignoring Pence and other people who the polls aren’t paying attention to. I’m talking only about the majors so far – Christie, Bush, Paul, Cruz, etc.)”
Hmm. Cruz is a monstrous liar who is trying to compete with Brownback in the faith-based fantasy budgeting department.

If Paul gets the nod, it would signal a major overthrow of Republican Party leadership, so I’m pretty sure he will be forced out by whatever dirty tricks the party establishment can come up with. Polling doesn’t really matter there; they’ve rewritten the rules of the Republican National Convention specifically to try to keep his delegates out.

Alon Levy January 11, 2015 - 1:14 pm

I thought about Paul and Brownback briefly. No, Paul is not as bad as Christie. He may be a Confederate revanchist, but he doesn’t have Christie’s authoritarian love of destroying everyone who’s in his way. Brownback nowadays comes off as a buffoon to me, and the same is true of the person who beat him to be the creationists’ favorite, Huckabee. Cruz is a nutjob, but he actually believes in what he says, and doesn’t come off as a conniving royal advisor from an HBO period drama.

Bolwerk January 11, 2015 - 3:14 pm

Christie probably has some grip on reality, even in a realpolitik kind of way, so that might make him more realistic than any of those other people.

Of course, that only makes him more dangerous.

Jon January 12, 2015 - 2:44 pm


Eric January 11, 2015 - 3:50 am

ABCD more or less boil down to “she’s not a Republican” which is a completely legitimate reason not to vote for a Republican, but among the field of Democrats, I fail to see what actual qualities she has.

I’m not following the Republican field too closely, but my impression is that figures like Bush and Rubio will be strong candidates (not that I would want to vote for them, but others would).

Bolwerk January 10, 2015 - 5:42 pm

Hillary’s play seems understandable to me. She’s popular in her own right, so is her husband. She’s predictably neoliberal, yet isn’t about to go on a moral crusade about delusional social causes like abortion and gay marraige, so the punditry can stomach her – and those who can’t stomach her get a boner from being angry at her and hurrrrawhawhahwliberals anyway. Democrats play to win, and she probably can win. She can probably raise money as well as anyone.

The strange thing is the fourth estate actually seemed to believe what they wanted about Christie: that he was sort of a tough-but-thoughtful, competent, watch-the-purse moderate rather than a mafioso from a corrupt political culture. That he’s rather empty-headed and buffoonish just didn’t occur to anyone.

BruceNY January 10, 2015 - 1:47 pm

I’ve become increasingly doubtful over the past months of Christie being able to win the nomination. He already had strikes against him: a Northeastern politician in a fairly liberal state, with a demeanor that offends Southern sensibilities. But the bad news keeps mounting: Bridgegate, the scam of calling the Pulaski Skyway an “approach to the Lincoln Tunnel” in order to divert funds for its rehabilitation, the fact that the TTF’s financial situation continues to deteriorate, and his refusal to increase the gas tax (lowest in the nation) to fund it, and now this mini-scandal of trips to watch the Dallas Cowboys, courtesy of the owner. . . Some of these issues may be too local to generate a lot of national press now, but they can certainly be used as weapons against him in any debate in the future. But I think taxes will be his biggest liability. Sure, he steadfastly refuses to allow the gas tax to increase, but that’s about the only tax he seems to be able to exert some real control over. Its NJ’s property taxes which are driving both people and businesses out of the state (Mercedes-Benz announced they’re moving to Atlanta after being in Bergen Cty. for over 40 years). He cannot claim to have done much to reign these in, and any other, more conservative Republican aspirant from low tax states down South will have plenty to say about that.

AMM January 8, 2015 - 12:59 pm

That the press is only focussing on what Christie wants talked about is par for the course for the USA mainstream media. I’ve noticed that, regardless of the issue, the press presents things in such a way as to keep those in power happy, even if they know that what they’re presenting is false (cf.: the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” flim-flam to justify the Iraq War.)

I think they know perfectly well what Christie is doing, but they don’t want to point out how the emperor is naked.

I can see a couple of reasons for this:

1. Laziness. If you simply cut-and-paste or paraphrase official press releases, you don’t have to go out and see things for yourself, or even do a Google search.

2. Access. If you upset the powerful (whether in government or industry), they can shut you out of future press releases. If you get them mad enough, they might even make trouble for you — investigate you, come up with trumped-up violations; threaten your license (if you are a broadcaster) or make it hard for you to sell your paper or magazine. (That’s what they did in Yonkers, for instance.) You can fight back, but it’s very expensive and even if you have the money, there’s no guarrantee you’ll win.

3. One hand washes another. The owners of most of the mainstream media move in the same circles as the powerful people they cover, and they don’t want to upset their friends, especially since their interests often coincide.

Chris C January 8, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Press Releases are public documents.

All they could do was drop a journalist or two from an email list or not return phone calls (which they did a lot during ‘bridgegate’ even to friendly reporters)

Would mean the journalist having to look at a website for them but hardly a deal breaker.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 3:39 pm

The press has run more stories on the inconsequential “bridge gate” non-scandal than I can count.

Not to worry, Hillary Clinton will be president and we’ll be safe from venal politicians, corruption, a cheer-leading media and a cult of personality.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 4:45 pm

Didn’t someone actually die because of Bridgegate?

Nathanael January 10, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Bridgegate was a criminal action taken by Christie’s closest associates in retaliation for a local mayor not agreeing to corrupt kickback/bribery schemes.

It’s actually a huge scandal.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Most of positive/fawning coverage he got was less about anything Christie could or couldn’t do, and more playable peculiarities like a social conservative in a fairly socially permissive state and having a supposed “moderate Republican” to point at. Let’s pretend we have competitive, open elections!

If deference to the myth of Republikan competency weren’t so pervasive, and people’s financial literacy weren’t so appalling, Christie’s future selling theatrics would have little appeal.

Nathanael January 10, 2015 - 12:19 pm

Bingo. The media is desperate to pretend that we have a functional election system, so they invent fake stories about “decent Republicans”. (Since Charlie Crist left the Republican Party, there are no decent Republicans below the state legislature level, and very few there.)

Larry Greenfield January 8, 2015 - 2:36 pm

As a native-born son of New Jersey (but now living in New York City), I hate to say this but the time has come to get rid of New Jersey, giving the northern half to New York State and the southern half to Pennsylvania.

Only then can the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey be eliminated, and its functions turned over to New York State, whose New York City metropolitan region needs the full attention it deserves.

The continuous meddling from Governor Christie stands in the way of any progress but he and the Governor of New York will never work things out in a satisfactory way.

I realize there are Constitutional issues to be solved but I see no other way.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 3:34 pm

Far be it from me to argue with your contention that Christie (a Republican!) is so awful that his temporary presence in Drumthwacket is justification for the first elimination of a state in U.S. history . . . but I might observe that NY-NJ have four senators, all from the same party, all of whom have safer seats than a NYC teacher with tenure. If their priority was getting back to NY-NJ some of the money sent to DC every year, instead of whatever it is they are focusing on, which seems mostly like pandering to liberals on social issues, we’d have all the train tunnels we needed by now.

Larry Greenfield January 8, 2015 - 4:06 pm

The senators don’t run the Port Authority; the governors do. I don’t see the governors ever straightening out the bi-state authority and I don’t see them ever eliminating it. The agency is the problem and I don’t see any other way to get rid of it.

Eric F January 8, 2015 - 4:10 pm

The missing element in tunnel finance is the “finance” part. That’s where the senators come in. Trade votes for projects. You are the safest senators in the country, trade your votes. We’ll name the stupid thing after the lot of you.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 5:10 pm

Stop repeating that claptrap. It was certainly financed, and a big chunk of the financing was coming from a Congressional appropriation.

You can be against the tunnel all you want without making things up.

Alon Levy January 14, 2015 - 9:30 am

Other federations sometimes change their states’ borders, or at least seriously moot such changes. In Germany, boundary changes went to referendum (and were rejected) into the 1970s, and a unification of Berlin with Brandenburg went to referendum (and was rejected) in the 90s. In India, states change borders routinely, in constant attempts to align state borders with ethnic boundaries. In Belgium, there are regional governments, with unchanging boundaries, but also communal governments elected by language communities, and as the language boundary diverges from the regional boundary due to Brussels-area sprawl, there are kludges to deal with the fact that the Flemish Region has municipalities where the majority language is French.

Point being, a lot of US state boundaries don’t make sense today, and the Northeast is unusually bad at this, with state boundaries that go along rivers on which major metro areas developed. Basically, public transportation and intercity rail planning in the US could remain devolved to the states in most cases, but the Northeast would have to be treated as a single state with 22 Senators.

Nathanael January 10, 2015 - 12:20 pm

While you’re right, the injection of New Jersey politics into NY and Pennsylvania would make things worse in both NY and PA, and so neither state wants New Jersey or any part of it. 🙂

Michael Noda January 14, 2015 - 6:51 am

Your assertion that Pennsylvania politics can get any worse, whether by the addition of our neighbors in South Jersey or by any other means, is both endearing and terrifying.

Eric January 11, 2015 - 3:53 am

I can’t imagine how this would ever take place, but it would be nice if it did.

eo January 8, 2015 - 6:08 pm

Fundamentally transit advocates shot themselves in the foot and continue to do so by dreaming of connection to Grand Central (for example, the Lackawanna Coalition). Neither Alt-G nor anything else connected to Grand Central is going to happen — there was too much other stuff in the ground and there is even more now that ESAs caverns have been excavated. For starters, there are too many other tunnels around: the 7 tunnel, 4,5,6 tunnel, the S tunnel, the car tunnel on Park Ave South and possibly some water tunnel which I do not know about. To bring NJ trains into the lower level would have required underpinning most of these while keeping them open for traffic. It would have also required demolishing the lower level food court — good luck getting that past conservationists. Furthermore underpinning of the Grand Central Building itself would have likely been required (also possibly of the building next to it — Graybar or something like that). This is all very expensive, much much more than the $12B for the cancelled ARC.

Someone might suggest to use the ESA level now that it exists — I have news for him: NJ Transit equipment would not fit there. Even the LIRR diesel equipment and coaches would not fit there (they did not fit the existing tunnels under the river, so the rest of ESA is not built to handle them either as they have no way of getting there).

So to the people who continue of dreaming of trains from NJ to Grand Central: it ain’t gonna happen unless it is another deep cavern below the deep cavern of ESA. The existing caverns cannot be used and nobody in their right mind can suggest spending money on expanding them — it is the equivalent of rebuilding them.

For that reason I do not understand why otherwise intelligent people continue of talking about Alt G and a connection to Grand Central. It cannot be done without demolishing everything that exists there now and starting from scratch — good luck getting that done for any reasonable amount of money or getting it past the people who today commute to Grand Central. They would not like using a temporary station somewhere uptown while the rebuilt is going.

The reality is that the only way NJTransit can get more tracks at a station in Manhattan is buying out and demolishing a while block (for example, Penn Station South as proposed by Amtrak) or building a deep station somewhere (as in ARC; I give you that it could be somewhere close to Grand Central, but not the existing Grand Central).

The reality is that, while a bunch of rich people who take the train from NJ and prefer to get closer to Grand Central because their job is there and try to pass as transit advocates, by not supporting the reasonable (but not ideal) alternatives such as the cancelled ARC or Amtrak’s Gateway we have ensured that we will not see any new capacity built by 2035 at the very least.

As for Christie … he is not stupid, he got to the Governor’s Mansion, so we know that he is a smart fox … why are you surprised that his political moves are cleverly designed to give him what he wants?

Caelestor January 8, 2015 - 6:53 pm

The only thing that’s really needed is a new set of tunnels and proper through-running. I’m really baffled to why a new station cavern is needed, especially if it’s not going to connect to the East River tunnels.

Nathanael January 10, 2015 - 12:22 pm

Alt G is technically feasible; it’s really a lot simpler than you make it out to be. It has been made harder by ESA eliminating a bunch of the yard tracks. Part of the food court would need to be knocked out.

The problem is fundamentally how expensive the real estate in the area is, and that’s why it was rejected. But it’s obviously the correct thing to do; they would have done it in London, or Paris, or any other *world class* city, but New York is a *third world shithole* in governmental terms.

marv January 11, 2015 - 11:15 pm

#7 to secaucus gives both times square and east side access.

even better: lower the west side irt (the original IRT) one level between columbus circle and 34th Street allowing the 4 track time square shuttle (the original IRT) clear passage between a new hudson tunnel (dual level giving 2 more rail road tracks to pen and allowing 4 track njt/lirr/amtrak through routing to Queens + 2 IRT gauge tracks split in 2 at times square though grand central continuing through a new 2 track tunnel to queens)

In queens have this IRT/NJ line elevated over the LIE and split into 3 branches serving:

*jfk via the former rockaway lirr branch with transfers at howard beach or aqueduct to the rockaways
*a branch to LGA via downtown citifield/the tennis center
*a branch along the lie out to douglaston and/or up to bay terrace.

between the east river and turnoffs, stations could include: van dam/greenpoint ave, grand ave/69th, queens blvd (w/transfer to IND <express?))

given the dual tack stations at times square and grand central, such a line should be able to handle 30+40 trains per hour

in nj line could either terminate at lautenberg station or continue (in full or partially) to Newark, Liberty airport and beyond


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