Christie Threatening to Kill ARC For Good on Friday

With NJ Transit ridership soaring but only one 100-year-old tunnel into Manhattan, New Jersey needs the ARC tunnel. Graphic: ##

Unless something changes quickly, the Christie administration is expected to (again) kill the badly-needed ARC transit tunnel this Friday. The tunnel would double capacity for New Jersey Transit into Manhattan, providing more and faster trips for commuters, and ease the pressure on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains [PDF].

Christie says he will not go forward with ARC unless the federal government agrees to cover any future cost overruns on the $8.7 billion project, reports the Star-Ledger. The Federal Transit Administration’s $3 billion contribution is already the largest federal commitment to a transit project in American history. So far, there haven’t been any signs from the feds that a further guarantee is forthcoming.

Advocates haven’t given up hope yet, however. This morning, New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez joined construction workers in North Bergen to rally for the project’s completion. At rush hour, local elected officials joined the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Regional Plan Association, New Jersey Future, Environment New Jersey and NJ PIRG at NJ Transit stations to urge commuters to express their support for the tunnel to Christie. You can add your voice at

RPA also began running an ad in New Jersey newspapers debunking some of the myths about the project. For example, while Christie claims that the project will end up costing far more than $8.7 billion, the basis for his projections has never been justified or even explained in any sort of detail.

Then again, the discussion of cost overruns is something of a red herring anyway. As the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has detailed, Chris Christie just isn’t that into transit. While claiming that the state can’t afford ARC, for example, New Jersey is simultaneously borrowing $2 billion to widen the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. There is money to spend on infrastructure, just not on rail.

Similarly, Christie has refused to raise New Jersey’s gas tax, the third-lowest in the country, in order to make the state’s transportation budgets add up. He didn’t have any such compunction about raising transit fares across the state, however, and his explanation is telling. “What’s the difference between a gas tax hike and a fare hike, besides who it lands on?” asked the Star-Ledger’s editorial board at the time. “That’s the difference,” answered Christie.

There are three days left. Can New Jersey’s voters convince the governor to do something he doesn’t want to do?

  • patton

    including the path train i believe there are six tunnels….this notion that there is one…one hundred year old tunnel is completely false.

  • If there aren’t going to be cost overruns, why won’t Washington pay for them? They will cost $0.00.

  • JK

    Is there some way that the feds can fund the Port Authority to build ARC by taking away money from NJ road projects? Christie has clearly done the electoral math and concluded that the ARC constituency didn’t vote for him anyway. Or, is the Port unable to operate independently enough because the chair is a Christie appointee? Or, is the really big political picture that Obama doesnt want to push too hard because he needs some Christie voters to hold NJ in 2012? I have to believe that a determined USDOT backed by both senators could put massive pressure on a governor.

  • Brooklyn

    Christie’s point may be a good one at a macro level — any suggestion that a project of this magnitude, in this town, in the shadow of the Tower That Couldn’t Pour a Foundation For a Decade — that this tunnel would not go overbudget is disingenuous. The public’s jaded.

    The same lunkheads picketing for seven hour workdays and no-show jobs should be announcing a plan that would incentivize early completion and demonstrate how the tunnel could be done underbudget.

  • Thom Hams

    I thought Republicans were against big federal government spending. Time for the state to own it. The chart above shows the need for more capacity.

  • J:Lai

    Why not require the contractors to eat any overage? Is the state govt so deeply in the pocket of the building industry that, even in this time of supposed belt-tightening for the industry, there is no leverage to negotiate a cap on the cost?

    I guess I answered my own question.

  • SurlyRider

    Skip the tunnel, move the jobs to NJ where the qualified workers live. Commuters don’t pay income tax to NJ, since NY’s income tax is higher.

  • Charles

    Every project like this has massive overruns. I think Christie’s a proto-fascist, personally, and I am disturbed that he’s so popular in New Jersey, but unfortunately even a stopped clock is right twice a day and this bloated tunnel to the bowels of hell does not deserve to be built. Fed money should be going to new Amtrak tunnels, anyway.

  • It’s completely not true that every project like this has massive overruns. On the contrary, American construction costs are globally unique, and New York’s are nationally unique. There is no rail project outside the New York area costing more than a billion dollars per kilometer; ARC’s latest budget is about $1.8 billion per kilometer.

    Those costs are far higher than what other cities cancel projects over. For example, in Amsterdam, when a subway line’s cost ballooned to about $400 million per kilometer, it was a major scandal, and the government said it was a mistake to build it. And in Tokyo, a prospective $500 million/km cost led Tokyo Metro to announce it will not build future subway lines. Neither Tokyo nor Amsterdam has low subway construction costs. For those, look to Madrid and Seoul, both of which have completed or are currently building projects at about $50 million/km.

    Unlike some other over-expensive projects, such as Second Avenue Subway, ARC doesn’t even have high ridership as a saving grace. Second Avenue Subway is projected to add about 200,000 daily subway users, so that its per-rider cost is merely very high, at about $25,000. But ARC is projected to add so few users that its per-rider cost will be in or near the six digits, by far the highest in the world. The normal range of both subway and commuter projects in peer cities is between $6,000 and $20,000.


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