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Do-over: Christie goes from ARC slayer to Gateway champion

Wednesday, March 9, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 09/25/2015

Gov. Chris Christie is single-handedly responsible for canceling the largest transportation project in America — an already-funded railroad tunnel between New York and New Jersey — because he thought it would cost his state too much if there were overruns. He forfeited billions in federal funding for the project, redirecting much of the rest to road repairs within his own state. And he has stood firm in the face of critics like Sen. Chuck Schumer, who called it “one of the worst decisions that any governmental leader has made in the 20th century, or the 21st century.” Christie, leading a state that was already notorious for its rough roads and hellish commutes, has hardly earned a reputation as a transportation-friendly governor since then. But apart from Bridgegate, Christie's cancellation of that tunnel project, officially called Access to the Region’s Core, has shaped up as his most serious transit-related political liability.  Of the two governors, Christie seems to be the more publicly eager to find a way to fund the new project, known as the Gateway Program. He took a meeting with federal transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, along with the state’s two U.S. senators. And he declared it a top priority.

Christie said that "this last tunnel that we canceled was not going to Penn Station and that was my objection at the time and Governor Cuomo's objection now. It was going to the basement of Macy's, seven floors down, with a terminal that we had to build that was gonna cost a billion dollars in taxpayer money. So let's get a properly engineered tunnel that gets to Penn Station in New York and let's get it paid for fairly so that New York, New Jersey and the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey all share in those costs." New Jersey's anti-Christie but pro-tunnel Democrats applaud the change in attitude, even as they regard it as an attempt by the upward-aspiring governor to salvage a political mess of his own making. Sen. Robert Gordon, the Democratic chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, said, “If I were in his shoes and concerned about my legacy. I’d be a little concerned about what people would be saying under their breath five years from now if those 110-year-old tunnels shutdown, and there is now an alternative.” While the earlier tunnel proposal would not have carried Amtrak trains like this new one, nor would it have gone directly to Penn Station in Manhattan, transportation experts said it would have eased concern about the pending crises by giving a new link for NJ Transit. Amtrak says its existing tunnel, damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, will need to have at least one tube closed for repairs within two decades.

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