Friday, October 29, 2010

Lautenberg Demands Investigation Into Christie Killing ARC Tunnel Project

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg thinks that his recourse against Gov. Chris Christie killing the ARC tunnel project is to launch investigations. That's all Lautenberg can think of?

Lautenberg should indict himself in this farce. After all, where was he to come up with the federal money or promise to fund cost overruns? That's Lautenberg's job - as senior member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, it was his job to get the funding secured. It was his job to get New York on board with financing a portion of the interstate project, and failing that, to get the feds to cover cost overruns instead of forcing New Jersey to bear the burden alone when the state cannot afford those cost overruns without incurring significant debt. All the estimates showed that cost overruns would tally at least $1 billion, if not $3 to $5 billion. Those are costs New Jersey could not afford.

Yet Lautenberg did nothing of the sort, and the federal government refused to cough up additional money. That the feds chose not to fund this project's potential cost overruns is quite telling as to the viability of the project as a whole. It was an indictment about the true value of the project, which turned out to be little more than a vanity project for NJ Transit that the agency could not afford to operate (seeing that it can barely afford its current infrastructure after raising fares and cutting service).

If President Obama, who has repeatedly called for increased spending on infrastructure of precisely this sort - mass transit expansion and upgrades - refused to provide the additional insurance against cost overruns, what does that say about this project, or Obama's committment to mass transit?

It shows that this project was not a good one, even if the intentions of the original design were. As originally intended, the ARC tunnel would double capacity on the Northeast corridor into New York Penn Station. The mess that we were stuck with before Gov. Christie canned the project built a separate two-track line into Manhattan that didn't connect with the Northeast Corridor and lacked the storage capacity for additional trains into Manhattan. It was a mess that deserved to be killed. NJ Transit claimed that they couldn't build the tunnel to Penn Station because of technological problems with doing so, yet Amtrak is proposing to do just that.

Everyone should focus on getting the Amtrak proposed 2-track tunnel addition built. This is a true doubling of track capacity on the Northeast Corridor that benefits riders of both NJ Transit and Amtrak - and provide the services and amenities that do not overly burden New Jersey taxpayers while asking nothing from New York taxpayers, even though this was the largest interstate project proposed.

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