BY TOM HESTER SR.
Gov. Chris Christie has decided to stick with his decision to shutdown construction of the Hudson commuter rail tunnel because of potential cost overruns, The Star-Ledger of Newark, reported Tuesday.
Citing three unnamed officials close to the project, the newspaper stated the governor will make his decision public on Wednesday. Federal transportation officials and the New Jersey AFL-CIO have been urging Christie to keep construction going.
The tunnel, which would stretch from the western slope of North Bergen and under the Hudson River to midtown Manhattan, is considered the nation's largest public works project.
Christie initially halted construction on Oct. 7, saying a review of the project indicated that the final cost to the state could rise from the projected $8.7 million to as much as $13 billion. At the urging of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the governor agreed to take two weeks to reconsider his decision. The two-week period ended Friday.The decision to halt construction is expected to cost the state government $3 billion in federal transportation aid and throw thousands of construction crewmen out of work.
The Star-Ledger reported Christie will take money earmarked for the tunnel's construction and use it to finance the nearly-bankrupt state Transportation Trust Fund, which finances road, bridge and mass transit projects.
Word of Christie's decision angered New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.
"Once again, Governor Christie has killed the ARC tunnel project, a decision that is wrong because the tunnel should be fixed, not canceled," Tittel said. "The decision by the governor will setback New Jersey's transportation needs for decades.
"Instead of taking the money to build more unnecessary highways, we should be fixing the plan for the tunnel so it meets the transportation needs of the region," Tittel said. "We believe if the governor is really going to cancel this project, the Amtrak should step in to ensure another tunnel is created for public transportation in the region. It's better to have a tunnel to Macy's basement than no tunnel at all."
Tittel added, "We believe Governor Christie is canceling this project not because it doesn't do what it should be doing but rather as an excuse to take the money for the Transportation Trust Fund. This is not about saving taxpayers money; this is really about having more money for highways and other sprawl inducing projects.
"Instead of fixing it and making it better, Christie has hurt commuters and the needs of the region," Tittel concluded. "Christie can't take the ARC tunnel to the White House." Tittel said. "By killing the tunnel we loose $3 billion in federal dollars, making this cancellation pennywise and pound foolish. Instead of doing what's best for the public interest, the Governor has delayed what he intended to do in the first place — canceling the project and ruining all chances for improving transportation access for the people of New Jersey and the region. The Democrats and supporters' refusal to try work make the tunnel work to meet the original goals of ARC also gave the governor another reason to kill the project."