Christie Rewrites ARC History: My Wife Made Me Do It

Did NJ First Lady Mary Pat Christie kill the ARC tunnel? Or was it (still) that her husband wouldn't raise the gas tax? Photo: State of NJ.
Did NJ First Lady Mary Pat Christie kill the ARC tunnel? Or was the problem just that her husband wouldn't raise the gas tax. Photo: ## of NJ.##

Having killed the badly-needed ARC tunnel not once but twice, you’d think that Governor Chris Christie would at least have the decency to let the issue go. But no. He’s got a whole new reason for opposing it. Now, apparently, the seed of the ARC’s destruction came from Christie’s wife Mary Pat, who was no fan of the deep-underground Midtown terminal.

“The lobbying to me on this one was from [the first lady],” Christie said. “She’s, like, ‘So this thing’s going 10 stories under Macy’s, [and] then I gotta go back up and I gotta walk over to Penn Station. I get on a subway. . .'”

The story is a new one for Christie, but then, he probably needs one. While deliberating on ARC’s fate earlier this fall, Christie’s argument was always that the state couldn’t afford any cost overruns. But the Tri-State Transportation Campaign caught Christie signing off on billions in borrowing for two highway widenings that had tripled in price over just five years. And Sen. Frank Lautenberg revealed that the feds had offered to add more funds and set up a public-private partnership that would bear the burden of cost overruns.

Compared to the canard of fiscal responsibility, I suppose the new argument looks pretty good.

  • jerzygurl

    Still surprised why NY would have refused to help pay for a tunnel that would be bringing all those NJ workers that would be paying State taxes to NY State coffers. With the Feds having whizzed away $787Billion without any shovel ready jobs, I was certain LaHood would have jumped at the chance guaranteeing responsibility for any cost over-runs. Well thats politics for you.

  • Steve

    I assume NY and NYC didn’t chip in because if people can’t get to New Jersey, they’ll just live in New York.

  • Stewart Clamen

    That might a reason to lobby to change the plan, not cancel it. A new tunnel would shorten the First Lady’s commute…

  • Brandon

    @jerzygurl, what NY state taxes? You pay income tax in the state you live in.

    Honestly, the seperate from Penn Station, super deep terminal was stupid. But the only building they started doing was from the NJ side, they could have changed to one of the other alternatives still and even saved money. Why the hell did the super deep terminal end up being the winning alternative anyway?

  • Larry Littlefield

    New Jersey’s taxes are lower than New York’s as a share of income. New York is paying for its own improvements. If New Jersey doesn’t want to pay, then additional Manhattan workers can live in New York.

  • Bolwerk

    Brandon: not sure about the details, but there’s a compact between NY and NJ that says each state gets first dibs to the income taxes to jobs in the state. Mostly favors NY.

  • I’m pretty sure it’s not a compact, just federal law. I’ve worked in NJ, and when I did I had to file a NJ tax return. When I worked in NJ part time I had to file one return for NJ and one for my NY income.

  • JayinPortland

    I’m not quite sure how it works for people who live in NJ and work in NY, but it is certainly NOT true that you only pay income tax to the state in which you live.

    Washington State is one of the few states with no personal income tax, but residents of Washington State who work here in Portland pay tax to Oregon on all earned income here just as if they lived here.

  • Brandon: the super-deep terminal is perfectly logical if you think like an American railroader or a construction consultant. Alt G had a cost escalation risk coming from the need to turn a corner between 31st Street and Park Avenue, which might require real estate takings. Alt P’s cost escalation risk came from the use of a cavern, but that’s something the consultants and contractors get paid for.

    On top of it, standard American railroading practices made the official Alt G suboptimal. Alt G has very large benefits coming from uniting Metro-North with NJT, running trains from Metro-North to NJT territory through Manhattan. But this would require rethinking the standard US practice that commuter rail is only for service to the CBD. This practice ensures that Alt G was not investigated to its full extent, and, further, that it would require new railyards in the middle of Manhattan. Fully combining Metro-North and NJT service would run into too much agency turf, and did – Metro-North opposed sharing some of Grand Central’s underused tracks.

    The alternatives analysis still projected that Alt G would tie Alt P for lowest cost, have the highest increase in ridership, and be the only alternative to reduce operating subsidy. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the agency turf, not the way it was proposed.

  • Very funny, Alon, but I don’t think that’s the link you intended to post.

  • jerzy gurl


    Why do New York taxes affect New Jersey budgets?
    People who live in New Jersey but work in New York first pay taxes to New York.

  • Shemp

    Anyone who uses one of the 3 major airports in the region, pays a toll crossing the Hudson or paying federal taxes was kicking in for ARC.

  • Cap’n: shit. This is the correct link – I accidentally pasted the previous link I’d copied.

  • Adam

    I’m not completely surprised by this news. The ridiculously deep tunnel and its lack of connections to other railroads was my objection. Though I’m clearly for transit, I ended up feeling rather agnostic about this project as conceived.
    Couldn’t another PATH tunnel, perhaps connecting the L or 7 to NJ do so at a cheaper price while increasing access point?
    Like the MTA, Port Authority, and NJT could ever cooperate on a single project

  • Nearly anything would be cheaper and more useful than ARC Alt P-Cavern. But the optimal tunnel would be a mainline tunnel connecting to the existing Penn Station, which would maximize connectivity between Jersey and anything north and east of Manhattan.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey Alon, just so we understand the situation, Christie didn’t cancel ARC in favor of a tunnel direct to Penn (perhaps with capacity taken from the LIRR since New York is paying for a tunnel elsewhere).

    He cancelled ARC in favor of nothing, unless someone else pays.

    Perhaps because he prefers roads. Or perhaps because he inherited a bankrupt state due to pension enhancments/underfunding.

  • Miriam

    The f train is close by.
    The f takes you midtown-the largest business district in NY? One can easily walk there as well.

  • Blame the woman, how typical…

  • Larry, I’m well aware that Christie doesn’t care about Alt P versus Alt G. And I’m well aware that he immediately shifted funding to roads, explicitly on the grounds that they serve the right kind of people. He’s a Tea Party Republican; to people like him, good government is just going to make people want more government. But Alt P was a terrible, way over budget project, and needed to be canceled. The capacity issues on NJT aren’t that big a deal, and can wait a few more years while American transit managers figure out how to cut costs to reasonable levels.


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