Chris Christie Expected to Kill ARC Transit Tunnel

Gov. Chris Christie is expected to kill the critical ARC transit tunnel project, reports say. Photo: NJ.com.
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to kill the critical ARC transit tunnel project, reports say. Photo: ##http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/gop_candidate_chris_christie_h.html##Star-Ledger##.

The largest federal transit investment in American history is on its deathbed, reports Andrea Bernstein at Transportation Nation. Three sources have told Bernstein that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is ready to pull the plug on the plan to double rail capacity under the Hudson River this week, though Christie denies his mind is made up.

We’ve already outlined just how important this project is to the future of New Jersey and how shortsighted this decision would be for the Christie administration, so with this devastating news, the only thing we can do is look forward.

First, the predictable stuff: If ARC dies, New Jersey will keep its $2.7 billion share of project funds, which Christie is expected to use to patch up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund for a couple of years so that he doesn’t have to raise the gas tax to pay for the state’s roads. The Port Authority will recoup its $3 billion, some of which will end up back in New Jersey and some in New York. The authority’s capital plan currently calls for no new pieces of infrastructure, so it’s possible this money will fund necessary repairs on existing bridges and tunnels.

The wildcard is where the Federal Transit Administration’s $3 billion winds up. When New York City activists defeated the Westway highway project 25 years ago, House Speaker Tip O’Neill managed to capture a large share of its funding for Boston’s Big Dig. The $350 million that US DOT offered New York to help implement congestion pricing in 2008 almost ended up paying for a Chicago BRT system, though Chicago ultimately balked as well.

Who will get the billions of dollars that Christie is on the verge of passing up? Place your bets — or vent your anger — in the comments.

  • Danny G

    Hey FTA, use that $3 billion to extend the L train past 8th Avenue to New Jersey.

  • so short-sighted… its just painful. and i don’t even use the path train.

  • Car Free Nation

    that’s what you get when you elect a cost-cutting republican who is too fat to locomote, other than by manipulating the gas pedal

  • ryan

    if true, this is disappointing

    although no reason to poke fun at Cristie’s weight

  • TheDude

    Elections have consequences..Local elections more then national a lot of the time.

  • “When New York City activists defeated the Westway highway project 25 years ago, House Speaker Tip O’Neill managed to capture a large share of its funding for Boston’s Big Dig.” Are you sure? The standard history is that $1.5 billion, maybe more, of Westway funds was fully ‘traded in’ for transit investment, circa 1985. The author of the book that is linked to in the article, Philip Lopate, is a first-rate writer, but I think his claim that the trade-in brought NYC and the MTA only “a few hundred million dollars” is dubious at best.

    You’re right of course that the $350 million the city would have gotten from FHWA to implement congestion pricing in 2008 went elsewhere, but that was a different situation altogether (no trade-in, two decades later, etc.).

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey Cuomo/Palidino/Schumer, get that Port Authority and FTA money!

    The SAS needs to go to 125th Street, to allow a connection to the Lex from the Bronx and MetroNorth. That will allow flexibility — in case deferred maintenance of the signal system causes an extended outage of the Lex, for example. Built it now! The sections between the stations as far as 116th are already there! Give 10,000 working poor unemployed guys picks and shovels, start digging, and design it as you go.

    And add MetroNorth to Penn it the LIRR to GCT. It shouldn’t cost much. No reason to give NJT the extra tracks at Penn once LIRR trains head for GCT — they don’t have the under river capacity anyway.

    And how about that new Tappan Zee! I had been opposed, but a rail connection to west of Hudson makes more sense now that ARC won’t be built. How about a lift bridge for rail (so it could be lower) next to the vehicular bridge, so it wouldn’t have the same grades. Freight could use it too for a quicker turnaround than Selkirk.

    Hey Bloomberg/Paterson — call up the press, and tell them that in light of this decision you would strongly advise those who work in Manhattan and want to buy a suburban house to do so east of the Hudson. Keep those those tax revenues in New York.

  • Christie’s move might have been brilliant if he were shifting funds from Manhattan commutes to building a self-sufficient future for Jersey in the form of streetcars (like the one that used to run through my hometown) and transit oriented development. But he’s just grabbing the money to prop up existing sprawl. Future generations will rue the day. Dolly back and you can see other pols all over the country pulling the plug on intercity rail and local transit. Today’s Times reports that a Republican candidate for governor in Wisconsin wants to turn down $810 million in federal high-speed rail funding to avoid spending $7-10 million a year to operate the system. In another decade these short-term political moves will be seen as long-term regional suicide.

  • Walter

    Use this money to build some stations in the Bronx and get Metro-North to Penn running right away. The Feds/Amtrak could even penalize NJ Transit by shaving some of their spots in Penn Station. If NJ commutes get longer or all have to switch in Secaucus, well, tough, they voted this guy in.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Before you blame Christie alone, realize that he just got there, and New Jersey is bankrupt. From from paying for sprawl, let’s see if their existing roads get maintained. And if NJT even continues to operate.

    We are only slightly better off, and only because our taxes are higher. The debts that are killing them are lower than NYC, and its pension system is only slightly worst off.

    Blame Generation Greed. We’re left allocating the pain. That isn’t the allocation I would make, but there it is.

  • I think the Wisconsin situation is different because it’s a campaign issue. Whatever you think of the idea, the Republican candidate is being transparent with the voters on his intentions. If the voters decide for him, that’s democracy.

    The ARC case is ironic. Here’s a governor who railed on and on about losing out the Race to the Top funds when the feds wouldn’t allow them to correct a paperwork error. Now, after getting the feds to give him the largest transit capital grant in US history, he pulls the rug out from under US DOT and the Port Authority. If I were LaHood I’d deliver the message that if he does this, New Jersey might as well not even bother for applying for any future grants – those are going to states that actually plan to use them. This $3B could have been put to good use in lots of places.

  • Einztine

    The Port Authority should use some of the fund to build a bus garage at the Manhattan end of the Lincoln Tunnel. This would make it feasible to add more bus only lanes to the tunnel and keep buses from parking on Manhattan’s local streets, which is currently a major problem in Manhattan’s west side.

    This is probably the cheapest way of absorbing more Jersey commuters (and travelers from further west) into Midtown without building an extra rail tunnel under the Hudson.

    The Feds should use some of their fund to build the missing station in the 7 line extension. Other worthy projects would be funding Select Bus Service in Brooklyn and Queens, true high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, Moynihan Station, Metro-North to Penn, East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, Fulton Transit Center, and the list goes on and on.

    There definitely isn’t a shortage of projects in New York to direct those funds if Christie turns it down.

  • While this project is very far from perfect, anyone who thinks the project will resurface in 5 years time is an optimist to the point of delusion. This is the end of any new rail capacity across the Hudson for twenty years. It is a shame cause it seems like most transit advocates for the last month seem to want to complain about how it isn’t perfect when they really should have been rallying behind one of the biggest transit projects in the country. Everyone should still write to support it.

    On the other hand, seems very fiscally stupid to hand back a $3 Billion dollar commitment to increase mobility in your state from the feds. Mobility is key to any thriving economy. What a short sighted idiot. Also great that he just threw away the $600 million that was put into the project. Way to lead on the feds and the people of New Jersey on.

  • I’m starting a grassroots movement to save ARC. I wrote Christie personally tonight and am going to get my family and friends who live in NJ to do the same. If you live in NJ, work in NJ, or pay taxes in NJ, it is imperative that you write him. I’m also thinking about a handwritten petition to save ARC that I would deliver personally to the media and to him.

  • Woody

    What Larry said. Start planning immediately to get to work on Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway up to 125th St.

    If they announce a plan to hire 10,000 people to dig the stations using shovels and buckets, 30,000 will apply for the jobs. When the physical work begins in 2012. Just in time to help Obama’s reelection after 5 years of recession and jobless recovery.

    The long list from Einztine also has merit.

    Keep in mind that Christie’s tunnel interruptus will mean that ending the Port Authority’s commitment will free up funds too, roughly half to go to New York and half to New Jersey. That money must be spent “within the New York–New Jersey Port District. This 1,500 mile² District is defined as a circle with a 25-mile radius centered on the Statue Of Liberty.” That rules out adding tracks to the LIRR out on Long Island, but we have plenty of good projects within the City.

  • Tralfaz

    Christie = Moses. But not as smart. New Jersey residents will be further in his debt sometime in the future.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?

  • Here in L.A. we were happy to take your congestion pricing money. We’ll be even happier if some of those transit dollars go to one of our “30/10” transit projects.

    Thanks NY/NJ!

  • Adam, as long as your grassroots movement makes it clear that a good ARC would use Alt G and cost one third as much as currently budgeted, count me in. Otherwise, good riddance: at a much lower cost such a project would get canceled anywhere else in the world, where they view even half a billion dollars per km of tunnel as a waste.

  • Bolwerk

    Quoth Einztine:

    The Port Authority should use some of the fund to build a bus garage at the Manhattan end of the Lincoln Tunnel. This would make it feasible to add more bus only lanes to the tunnel and keep buses from parking on Manhattan’s local streets, which is currently a major problem in Manhattan’s west side.

    Oh, WTF? No more of these idiot bus terminals/garages/complexes. The suburban buses carry so few people per bus that it’s a waste.* The bus problem is one that calls for interstate cooperation (as usual). Dedicate a crosstown street or two (or whatever it takes) to buses for NJT and city buses. They should drop people off at different points in Manhattan, rather than being focused in giant bus terminals that are disconnected from all other transportation.

    * Perhaps long-distance services justify a special terminal. Perhaps. But it seems many of the cheaper LD buses just ignore the terminal.

    Quoth Woody:

    Keep in mind that Christie’s tunnel interruptus will mean that ending the Port Authority’s commitment will free up funds too, roughly half to go to New York and half to New Jersey. That money must be spent “within the New York–New Jersey Port District. This 1,500 mile² District is defined as a circle with a 25-mile radius centered on the Statue Of Liberty.” That rules out adding tracks to the LIRR out on Long Island, but we have plenty of good projects within the City.

    And re Larry’s comment, it rules out using the money on the Tappan Zee, which was apparently built just beyond the PA’s reach (that’s actually why the Tappan Zee crosses the widest point on the Hudson, supposedly). Of course, many things could be done if the legislatures of NJ and NY agree. Rail to Stewart Airport might make sense.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Has anyone shown Christie our film that shows just how bad the bus problem is?

    http://www.streetfilms.org/hudson-river-crossings-improving-bus-capacity/

    It’s only gonna get worse.

  • I’ll grant you that the Stewart airport link is a waste of money of less colossal proportion than ARC. But it’s still a really low priority project. For one, the quality of the railroad serving it is so horrendous that it takes longer to get there from Manhattan than to Philadelphia.

    Better projects than ARC, within the PA’s purview: a stripped-down ARC, building Alt G without the railyards, which don’t belong in a CBD anyway. A third Hudson crossing, going from Hoboken or Jersey City to Fulton Street and then to Brooklyn to hook up with the LIRR. If there’s enough money, a tunnel from Staten Island to Fulton Street and Grand Central. Those are nose-bleeding expensive, but have way more value to commuters than Caverns Are Us.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Keep in mind that Christie’s tunnel interruptus will mean that ending the Port Authority’s commitment will free up funds too, roughly half to go to New York and half to New Jersey.”

    Forget that ratio. New York still needs to be paid back for the 1990s, when profits from JFK and LGA were used to keep PA tolls and PATH fares lower than TBTA tolls and subway fares for years while the airport access program that every NY flyer STILL pays for was cut down to the Airtrain to Jamaica.

    Give NJ one-third, perhaps in exchange for allowing it to not be spent on transportation alone.

  • JK

    Maybe there is some political chicken here between Christie and the Obama administration. Presumably Obama wants to win NJ in 2012, so beating NJ voters on their head because of something their GOP governor did, might not be the best political approach. Maybe that federal money somehow finds a way to stay in NJ, especially after the GOP takes back the House next month and nerves are frayed in the White House.

  • Lefty

    How about raising bridge tolls to cover the $2.7 billion? Just for NJ plates. What would that be, like a $500 toll each time or somesuch? (No I’m not serious and yes I have no idea how many cars cross daily.)

  • Tralfaz

    I like the way Lefty thinks. Just because it is so out of the box.

  • James

    Why spend the money in New Jersey or to benefit New Jersey commuters? They voted for this guy who is implementing the policy of being satisfied with the current infrastructure.

    Send the money somewhere where they want modern infrastructure: California High Speed Rail could use the money, and will make better use of it than a parking garage.

    By electing Christie, New Jersey said they don’t want the $3bn.

  • Sniffit

    Duh…there’s no way he lets this go through and allows union construction jobs to flourish. I’d bet my left arm he misappropriates it and does nothing with it to fix NJ’s current infrastructure either, as that would also create union jobs from which flow union dues. Fact is, GOPers/conservatives see expenditures on these kinds of projects as giving money to unions and that is anathema to them. Infrastructure around the country is failing for precisely that reason.

  • BrooklynNative

    So let’s get this straight.,. The governor who is against government waste is making a decision that will result in the $600,000,000 already spent on the project being wasted for nothing. In exchange, he’s giving up increased revenue vis-a-vis the expected increase in property values and the additional disposable income NJ residents would have as a result of earning higher salaries in NYC thanks to the ability to have a better commute into Manhattan. All of that money, of course, could have been used to pay for the cost overruns over time. Instead, the governor would rather put more cars on the roads which would require more money to maintain the highways and bridges, money that the state doesn’t have because, in Governor Christie’s words, New Jersey is broke. Talk about short sightedness and an inability or unwillingness to see the big picture.

    Of course he’s killing the project. There is zero benefit to Christie if he lets it move on as planned. As far as ARC goes, once it was completed, he would have been a mere footnote in the story of the tunnels. But if he kills the project, the benefits to his political career are large and long lasting. And making moves that would result in more cars on New Jersey’s already at-capacity roadways is only going to hurt th state. We all know that expanding capacity on highways does not improve traffic conditions, but rather, it makes them worse by attracting more drivers. We need to get more people out of their cars and onto mass transportation if NJ is going to remain competitive.

    New Jersey polticians have to accept the fact that they can no longer continue to brag about having the third lowest gasoline taxes in the nation. It’s completely counter-productive. Raising the gas tax by a mere 5 or 10 cents per gallon would result in a big revenue increase. And it’s what municipalities do. People are charged for the privelege of driving to their destinations and in exchange, they subsidize mass transit through gasoline and other taxes associated with driving a car. It’s the way we do things in America. Thank you governor Christie for taking the state of New Jersey back 20 or 30 years with this move to kill ARC.

  • Ricky the American

    Congratulations, Christie, you have now lost my vote for whenever the next election is. Furthermore, seeing as none of the Republican candidates seem to give a bleep about transit, I will NOT be voting for any Republican this year. Furthermore, killing the tunnel now will only ensure that some sort of tunnel gets built later, because the trans-Hudson traffic will probably grow when the economy improves. Enjoy your fail, Christie.

  • BrooklynNative, you’re succumbing to the sunk cost fallacy. In reality, the fact that $600 million has been spent means nothing; all it means is that the cost of proceeding with the project is $8.1 billion instead of $8.7 billion. To put things in perspective, it’s still higher than the full budget of ARC was in 2008, and is a little more than three times higher than the cost of an cavern-free alternative.

  • BrooklynNative

    Alon, without the additional new platforms and tracks in Penn Station that ARC would have provided, where would you propose sending the additional trains, twice the number that currently come in to NYC during rush hours? There is no viable cavern-free alternative because even if you build another tunnel, there’s no where for additional trains to go at Penn Station.

  • clever-title

    I am not appreciating the “screw NJ, since they elected Christie” type comments on this post. Christie didn’t run on this issue, and his election certainly wan’t a referndum on ARC.
    By the logic in those comments, New York deserves its crumbling mass transit infrastructure, since voters elected the pols who continually raid transit funds for general expenditures.

    Many of us are in favor of expanding rail capacity (though I’m not thrilled about the design for the stub-end disconnected station, which even NARP opposes), and there are still opportunities to improve rail to NYC, including replacing the Portal Bridge and fixing Amtrak’s power and signal problems that have plagued the NEC this summer.

  • BrooklynNative

    Furthermore, Alon, what are you saying… we shouldn’t care that we spent $600 million on a project that will now be stalled indefinitely and probably never restarted in the near future?

  • BrooklynNative

    Clever-title… if you are familiar with the details of the ARC project,then you know that the city’s water tunnel stands in the way of extending the tracks so that they connect with Grand Central Station. Everyone wants to connect the tracks so that NJT trains and Amtrak trains could have access to Grand Central Station and Metro North trains would have access to Penn Station. This would also create a 2nd route for Northeast Corridor Amtrak trains to travel between Boston and NYC. But NYC DEP will not let construction come so close to the water tunnel. If that tunnel is damaged in anyway by construction, it would risk contaminating the water supply for millions of people down stream so to speak. Engineers have been examining this proposal for two decades. If it was possible to connect the tracks with Grand Central Station without risking damage to the water tunnel, don’t you think they would have come up with something viable by now? DEP is standing in the way.

  • So depressing! (sigh)

  • clever-title

    @BrooklynNative. I’m agree that it wasn’t NJT/Amtrack’s preference to go with the compromised design, I just don’t think we’re getting as much value as we could for the billions of dollars due to the water tunnels. It’s frustrating, but I suppose it’s appropriate – Conquering Gotham (a recent history of the building of Penn Station) describes Cassatt’s frustration that the most powerful railroad on Earth was thwarted by the Hudson for decades.

  • There is no viable cavern-free alternative because even if you build another tunnel, there’s no where for additional trains to go at Penn Station.

    Sure there is: on other Penn Station tracks. In modern first-world countries, a station with four tracks at one end and four tracks at another will be used for through-service, and need about eight station tracks at most to accommodate all traffic.

    The idea that 21 tracks do not suffice for a train station with four tracks at each end is a steam-era relic of long turnaround times, peak-only service, and no agency cooperation. Tokyo has dropped it, Paris has dropped it, Berlin has dropped it, even Philadelphia has dropped it. It’s just New York and a handful of other North American cities that cling to century-old railroading practices.

    If it was possible to connect the tracks with Grand Central Station without risking damage to the water tunnel, don’t you think they would have come up with something viable by now?

    They did: that’s Alternative G, connecting to Grand Central. The connection would pass hundreds of feet above the water tunnel, and would pose no risk to it. What would pose a risk is trying to continue the cavern’s stub-end, which is at a much lower elevation; that’s why Alt P has no tail tracks. (It does not need tail tracks, but the people who design train stations in New York design everything else with tail tracks and probably would this one, too, if they could.)

  • So we are talking about not spending $3 billion in federal money that the feds would have to borrow anyway. And both NJ and NYC get to keep their funds and use them for other productive purposes.

    I’m not seeing the problem.

    Major metropolitan areas are an unsustainable lifestyle. They require massive infusions of cash from people that live sensibly in less congested areas.

    Limiting those subsidies will hopefully cause folks to live in less densely populated areas.

  • Major metropolitan areas are an unsustainable lifestyle. They require massive infusions of cash from people that live sensibly in less congested areas.

    Wrong. The subsidies in fact flow from cities to the rural areas. For example, according to data from the Tax Foundation and the Census, as of 2004-5 the New York metropolitan area paid $93 billion more in federal taxes than it got back in spending.

  • darren

    When the Federal transit match is only 50%, but the highway match is 80%, it’s not surprising that NJ’s looking to reprogram the money.

  • Scott Webber

    The current ARC plan is a half-fast, short-sighted plan that fails to try address the transportation needs for New York/New Jersey. The current plan leaves riders in an unsafe deep dead-end terminal next to Macy’s basement that makes for an ideal terrorist target given that it is so far underground that it would be impossible for riders to escape. Further, the original goal of ARC was to connect riders to midtown and the east side of Manhattan – the current ARC project will not advance that objective. The ARC plan as it stands now fails to provide operational flexibility for NJT, excludes Amtrak and prohibits through-running of NJ Transit trains to Connecticut and Long Island and the eventual creation of a regional rail management agency that would provide the ideal operational efficiency that the NYC metro area needs for long term objectives. As currently configured, this project is a waste of money. The plan should be amended to create tunnels that connect to Penn Station, and reconfiguring track space so that a second station can be carved out of the Farley Post Office into a Moynihan Station for NJT and Amtrak, and making the current Penn Station into LIRR/Metro North. This is the layout that will enable sufficient track space for all four railways in the region and provide for interconnectivity for everyone in the future. I applaud Governor Christie for taking a step back and reexamining plans – I only hope that in the end, a solution that actually is functional is created for this project.

  • Scott, I’m mostly with you, until you get to the part about the Farley Building. The Farley Building has steps on the outside, which is nice for a public monument but not for a transportation center. In addition, if you separate different railroads into different concourses, you’re doing it wrong. The ideal configuration is any track, any train, with trains running through the station; the entire separation of NJT and the LIRR/Metro-North is the wrong way to go about it.

    Here’s a better idea: take the half of the area of lower concourse of Penn Station that’s used for back offices and concessions, and gradually clear it and replace it with open space for passenger circulation. It costs about $2 billion less than building a gigantic monument to Daniel Moynihan, is equally effective, and makes it easier to unify the commuter rail systems.

  • Groundhog

    How about converting one of the Lincoln tunnel tubes to accommodate trains? Or a lane of the GWB? You’d think the Lincoln tunnel would be somewhat feasible given its proximity to Penn station. Then make the Lincoln inbound only for cars in the morning and outbound only in the afternoon.

  • shorebreeze

    It all depends on what Christie wants to do instead. No tunnel at all? That would be insane. But an ARC that uses existing Penn and eventually also Grand Central Stations, and cuts through the idiot bureaucracies of greater New York? That would be visionary, not to mention substantially cheaper than the current ARC plan because no new stations would have to be built. And so far Christie hasn’t said a word. That leads me to fear his choice is none at all, but I have hope.

    Part of the problem is that Bloomberg raced ahead with building the west side subway at a level that makes connecting ARC to Penn more difficult. The geology of the area is a mess, so it’s not like they can just dig ARC anywhere. That intransigence from NYC is what led to this dead-end lunacy in the first place, all because of a battle over literally just a few feet in the level at which the west side tunnel is to be dug.

  • shorebreeze

    Oh, and while we’re at it, NJ has like practically no gas tax at all, so why the heck is Christie refusing to raise the gas tax when he’d mostly be making money for his state from out-of-state drivers who use the Turnpike? Answer, because he’s an ideologue. That’s where I fear the end result of this is no tunnels at all, and a return to the pre-1900 method of using ferries for NJT and Amtrak customers.

  • In light of the cancellation, it’s time for me to propose an idea that was already hinted at by one commentor. The Lincoln Tunnels (three bores, each two lanes) are a resouce that we now must use more efficiently.

    I propose to take one bore (probably the central one) and put two light-rail tracks into it. To make the connection on the NJ end would probably require drilling a tunnel under the mountain to a point near where the existing Pennsy track emerge. Light rail could then split in a couple of different directions, including Secaucus.

    It’s not out of the question to run light rail up the existing access highway, but the grade is quite steep. It would require all-wheels-powered equipment, I believe.

    This could all be done for a tiny fraction of the cost of ARC.

    I grant that it’s inferior to ARC, but we must have more rail capacity under the Hudson, and I can think of no other way to accomplish it in the current circumstances.

  • Joe Dee

    2 words “Big Dig” $22Billion (with interest)
    Your children will pay and pay and pay!!
    Your grand children will be born into govt slavery.
    13 trillion and growing! Because they never pay it off.
    They just roll it over and sell more govt bonds to pay the interest!!!
    Until the interest is the whole budget.
    Don’t tell me “tax the rich”
    If you confiscated 100% of the rich’s income it won’t be enough!!
    That’s how much they are spending.

  • I am about to prepare my very own job since there aren’t any nice jobs within the market.

    Can anybody provide any recommendations or websites about how to get government grant money to begin with my personal business? I have been previously looking over the internet but just about every website demands for money and I have been told by the unemployment office to avoid the websites that want cash for grant info because they are scam. I’d personally be really grateful for any support.

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