New Jersey's Tunnel to New York Goes Dark

Governor Christie says taxpayers can't afford it

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010  |  Updated 5:06 PM EDT
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New Jersey's Tunnel to New York Goes Dark

AP

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2010 file photo, a large rusty metal wall is seen in North Bergen, N.J., covering construction at the ARC Tunnel. The fate of the biggest public works project in the country _ a $9 billion-plus rail tunnel under the Hudson River _ appears to be sealed after officials said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was standing firm on his decision to kill it. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

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Saying the costs of going ahead with a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York is "an unacceptable level of risk and cost," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Wednesday formally ended the project.

The budget was $8.7 billion, and construction began last year.

But federal estimates (the U.S. Government committed to spending $3 billion) last August, according to Christie, suggested the cost overruns could range from $2 to $5 billion.

Christie said a careful analysis over the past two and a half weeks since he first tried to kill the tunnel tell him there is "a one in six chance" the final price tag could actually go over the $5 billion 'high end" overrun estimate.

Proponents of the tunnel "are asking for a blank check. I simply will not do that," Christie said.

Christie pointed out that to date, New York had not offered up money for the project. The Governor did suggest if New York and Amtrak were to share in the cost, the plans would be worth revisiting.

The chairman of the Assembly's Transportation Committee, John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), called it an "historically bad" decision that "will haunt New Jersey for generations."

Summit, N.J. Mayor Jordan Glatt agreed. "If we went for every infrastructure project where we were concerned about cost overruns, we wouldn't have any project going back to the Brooklyn Bridge."

Christie said he wasn't pleased about halting the project.

"I do this with no sense of happiness," he said, but, "It is a dollars and cents issue, not a philosophical issue. I don't have the money. This decision is final. I am done. We are moving on."

Asked what it would take to restart the project in the future, Christie said, "Obviously New Jersey's economy would have to be in better shape."

He also implied New York would have to chip in, noting the project is named "Access to the Region's Core, not Access to New Jersey's core."

Some New Jersey residents said they believe Christie's move was prudent, given the current fiscal reality.

"His hands are tied fiscally at this point and there's just no money for it," said Vince Celii, a pizzeria owner.

The decision, first reported by The Star-Ledger of Newark, comes after half the NJ Transit system train schedule was either canceled or rerouted due to a train derailment at the New York entrance to the tunnel on Monday morning.

"You get late to work, you get late home," complained commuter Puja Sethi, 31, of Edison, N.J., who then said the governor should "have another tunnel open up."

Mass transit advocates agree.

Zoe Baldwin of Tri-state Transportation Campaign  said "Commuters would have been saved a lot of time if they had the tunnel."

"What it does is it creates redundancy which means if one tunnel is blocked off you can go into the other tunnel," she added.

But Governor Christie has argued the state is broke, and he can't ask taxpayers to pony up any more than that $2.7 billion of its share of the $8.7 billion project.

Supporters of the project say it will drastically slash -- even by half-- the commute times between the crowded, traffic-clogged routes between New Jersey and New York.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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