Independent Federal Report Confirms: Christie Lied To Kill ARC Tunnel

Without ARC, these century-old tunnels will remain the only way for NJ Transit commuters to get to Manhattan. Photo: NJ Transit via ## Avenue Sagas##

It was never about cost overruns. It was never about New Jersey’s share of the price tag. Chris Christie’s decision to kill the ARC tunnel under the Hudson River was always about two, and only two, things: the governor’s unwillingness to raise the state’s rock-bottom gas tax and his desire to make a name for himself among national Republicans.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office, the independent and non-partisan investigation agency of the federal government, lays bare what transit advocates knew all along: Christie wanted to break into the piggy bank of transit dollars put aside by previous administrations and use the money to bail out the state’s highways. He was willing to say anything to get his way.

Christie’s untrue statements about New Jersey’s most important transit project were catalogued by the New York Times, which broke the news of the GAO report this morning. The governor claimed, for example, that New Jersey would be paying 70 percent of the cost of building the first new rail tunnels under the Hudson in a century, which he argued was too high. The GAO found that the state would only shoulder 14.4 percent of the cost.

Christie repeatedly cited cost overruns, which he said would put the total price tag at up to $14 billion, as a reason to pull the plug on the project. But, reported the Times, “the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.”

Compare that to the value that ARC would have created for New Jersey. At the time, analysts predicted that the project would raise New Jersey property values by $18 billion and allow $50 billion in new wages to come back to the state from New York City. The GAO concluded that the ARC tunnel would have provided the region with economic, environmental and mobility benefits, though the report could not quantify to what extent.

So why did Governor Christie willfully deceive and beggar the citizens of his state? As Streetsblog reported at the time, it was all about New Jersey’s empty, debt-ridden transportation trust fund. New Jersey’s gas tax, the third-lowest in the country, hasn’t been raised for 23 years. The infrastructure funding woes that can be found across the country, therefore, are even more acute there. When Christie killed the ARC tunnel, the highway trust fund was expected to go bankrupt within a year.

The sustainable fix would have been increasing the gas tax, at least to the level of New Jersey’s neighbors, but Christie went for the fiscally irresponsible and politically explosive option of stealing from transit riders instead. By taking almost $3 billion from what the Regional Plan Association’s Ingrid Michaelson at the time called “the cookie jar of money that previous governors have set aside for ARC,” Christie bought himself two or three years of road-building and national attention from conservatives (including an impassioned movement to recruit him to run for president).

“In hindsight, it’s apparent that he had a highly important political objective,” said Martin Robins, a former director of the ARC project now at Rutgers, to the Times: “to cannibalize the project so he could find an alternate way of keeping the transportation trust fund program moving, and he went ahead and did it.”

  • Ben from Bed stuy

    Dear Governor Christie,
    The next time I’m stuck in a train, getting later by the minute, I’ll think of you.

    What a short-sighted move you made to kill the ARC tunnel. Without increased train capacity in and out of New York City, you have prevented your citizens from moving easier. You have kept more drivers in cars polluting New Jersey’s already foul air. You have stymied economic growth for both New York City and New Jersey. 

    That’s not leadership. That’s just foolishness. 


    Ben from Bed Stuy 

  • Nitpicker

    Just to nitpick, but your photo caption states “Without ARC, these century-old tunnels will remain the only way for NJ Transit commuters to get to Manhattan” It’s true that they’ll remain the only RAIL option, but don’t forget about the express bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, which carries a huge number of NJ Transit bus commuters. In fact, daily commuters using the Lincoln bus routes outnumber daily NJ Transit rail riders passing through the twin rail tubes.

  • Jared T Rodriguez

    The political system doesn’t cease to amaze me. That a Governor will go out of his way to purposely injure his State is just incredible. This is grounds for a recall – but, that will never happen, since the media is twisted and the American discourse is so misguided.

  • Anonymous


    Republicans had no trouble supporting a Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. 

    But revamping the Tunnel from NJ to Manhattan.  GTFOuddaHere!

  • Anonymous

    This makes me want to move back to NJ just to vote against Christie next year.

  • Before I started working for Streetsblog out in L.A., I was the NJ Coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.  I was beyond outraged when Christie killed the tunnel and the press treated facts vs what Christie said as a “he said, she said” argument.  I’m willing to bet that media treatment continues except for a couple of writers at the Star-Ledger and Asbury Park Press

  • Js_stafford

    Pinocchio  nj governor killed thousands of jobs by decieving the nj taxpayers of the cost of the tunnell  project!

  • J. Markey

    One more reason that I can’t wait until the GOP is consigned to history’s dustbin. Looks like their determined to go the way of the Whigs.

    Although the Dems are usually ambivalent and lukewarm on public transportation Republicans post-Reagan seem to hate it with an unbridled passion pretty much unprecedented in any other national party on the planet.

  • Cberthet

    fat f#ck

  • mike

    Our friggin taxes are high enough in NJ already……

  • dd

    This thread is two years old?

  • kickyourace

    Want change? is my suggestion. What is right never changes. Who is wrong can be changed.

  • bulova

    Property taxes are too high because the state has cut municipal assistance. Gas taxes are among the lowest in the nation. Get your facts straight and stop parroting the Republican party lie… line.

  • bulova

    One reason NJT bus riders so outnumber NJT rail riders is exactly because those two century-old tunnels are the only NJT rail link to and from Manhattan. The ARC would have made it possible and cost-efficient for NJT Rail to handle a commensurate increase in rail ridership. But NO! Governor Liar killed it so he could redirect the funding.

    This, the Fort Lee/GWB lane scandal and the Hoboken Sandy fund extortion are all about one thing: Money. From where it is coming, and to whom it is going.

  • bulova

    Yup. And all the more relevant today in light of all the other Christie crap that’s finally floating to the surface (two or three months too late to be of any use). And the Conservatives complain of a Liberal media bias. Sure. Right.



  • Walter Crunch

    One more reason to marginalize fatty mcfatster.

  • DayWalker

    And he also didn’t want the feds sniffing about while he was misappropriating funds from the Port Authority.

  • Fascinating reading this in 2017…


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