Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gov. Christie Warms To Bloomberg's 7 Train Extension Proposal

Any proposed extension of the 7 Train to Secaucus would require New Jersey's support. It seems that Gov. Christie, who killed the ARC tunnel project because of out of control costs and that the state would be on the hook for overruns that could reach anywhere from $1 to $5 billion over the already inflated $9 billion cost (originally proposed as $5 billion), is receptive to the idea that the MTA be able to extend the 7 Line to the Secaucus Transfer.

One of the reasons that he'd support this particular mass transit option is that the city and state of New York would be directly involved in the financing. The ARC tunnel, despite its interstate nature, would have been funded disproportionately from New Jersey, and New Jersey taxpayers would have been on the hook for all cost overruns.

Proponents of the ARC tunnel focus on the lack of a one-seat ride into Manhattan for North Jersey commuters, but ignore that this proposal would give even quicker and greater access to all MTA routes, including those on the East Side of Manhattan - direct access to Grand Central Station on the 7 Line, to say nothing of direct access to Queens and the outer boroughs. One-seat rides aren't nearly as important to commuters as the availability of rides, and NJ Transit has shown that it can't afford its existing infrastructure by cutting service on buses and trains. It had no way to afford one-seat rides into Manhattan without curtailing existing service to Hoboken.

The 7 Line proposal still needs to arrange financing and for the various Congressional delegations to get behind the proposal to line up federal funding in addition to Port Authority monies that were allocated to the project. Sen Lautenberg, who would rather carry out investigations into Christie canning the ARC tunnel, has yet to weigh in on this more worthy and cost-effective project. Christie's predecessor, Jon Corzine broke ground on the project despite opening the state's taxpayers up to potential cost overruns of billions - a bad deal that would only get worse as costs mounted and would saddle NJ Transit with yet another white elephant and boondoggle to go along with its Secaucus Transfer.

For his part, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has said that he would seek the necessary funding for the project. At least someone in the New York and New Jersey delegations has the foresight and understanding of the importance of expanding mass transit in a more efficient and cost effective manner.

Still, the MTA capital budget is itself stretched thin and the MTA has seen its share of service cuts and fare hikes. Yet, the MTA is better situated to handle the project than NJ Transit given it already has the equipment and land available for the tunnel without additional condemnations - a major cost savings.

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