Chris Christie’s Tunnel Vision

“When weighing all the interests, I simply cannot put the taxpayers of the State of New Jersey on what would be a never-ending hook.” With this myopic and flawed logic, Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey killed the largest public works project currently under construction in the United States, a desperately needed new mass transit tunnel between Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey. The Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Tunnel would have added a new two-track tunnel under the Hudson to relieve congestion on the century old tunnel NJ Transit currently shares with Amtrak. Christie claimed the project would have cost up to $5 billion more than the $8 billion budgeted; a figure disputed by transit experts and which Democrats in the state legislature maintain was inflated to justify the cancellation.

In the short term, the ARC Tunnel would have created 6,000 construction jobs. When fully operational in 2017, the ARC Tunnel would have doubled the number of NJ Transit trains that are able to travel into Manhattan, added more than 40,000 permanent jobs, removed tens of thousands of cars from the roads, dramatically decreased air pollution, and added thousands of residents to the state’s population. Now, because of Christie’s decision, NJ Transit trains will face increasingly significant delays, trains will be progressively more crowded, pollution levels will rise as more cars clog area roads, and the state’s economy will not grow as robustly.

Despite Christie’s mantra of fiscal prudence, stopping this project will cost the state billions. The federal government committed over $3 billion and the Port Authority committed $3 billion; most of this money will likely be reallocated away from New Jersey to other projects around the New York region and nation. Additionally, $600 million has already been spent on design, tunnel boring, and property condemnation with nothing to show for it except for a giant hole in the ground and a few demolished buildings on the Westside of Manhattan.

Recent news reports suggest Christie is reconsidering his decision to kill the ARC Tunnel due to pressure from the federal government. Some commentators suggest Christie is using the threat of cancellation as a bargaining chip to persuade the federal government to give the state more money for the project; if this is true, it is a reckless gamble that might end up backfiring.

In a statement to the New York Times, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat, from New Jersey summed up the obvious, “Killing the ARC tunnel will go down as one of the biggest public policy blunders in New Jersey’s history.” So, congratulations Chris Christie, you have just cost the tax payers of New Jersey billions and your legacy as governor will be worse traffic, crowded trains, dirtier air, and a worse economy.