Gov. Chris Christie today terminated the over-budget Hudson River commuter train tunnel, America’s largest public works project, ending for now the two-decade-old quest to expand rail capacity between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan.
"It's a dollars and sense issue. I cannot place, upon the citizens of the state of New Jersey, an open-ended letter of credit," Christie said.
It was the second time the governor killed the tunnel this month. He scrapped the project on Oct. 7, saying his advisers were projecting overruns of $2.3 billion to $5.3 billion beyond the $8.7 billion tunnel price tag.
The next day, at the urging of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Christie agreed to give the project a grace period while federal officials searched for cost alternatives to help New Jersey pay for the project that was most recently projected to cost at least $9.78 billion.
The federal government and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had each allocated $3 billion for the project and New Jersey committed $2.7 billion — including $1.25 billion in New Jersey Turnpike Authority money.
Christie has said he didn’t want the New Jersey version of Boston’s “Big Dig” — a tunnel mega-project that saw the final tally climb to nearly 10 times the initial $2.8 billion estimate.
Known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, the New Jersey tunnel was to double train capacity to and from New York City, increasing the Garden State’s access to wealthy jobs in America’s largest city. It was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
But the only visible sign of the proposed 9-mile tunnel is a support span in the area where the tunnel was to begin in North Bergen.
Still, up to $600 million has already been spent, mostly on design and planning work.
With each week since Christie called a construction moratorium on Sept. 10, tunnel proponents have become more pessimistic that the project would happen.
Tunnel opponents maintained the project was rushed together so then-Gov. Jon Corzine could get a re-election campaign photo opportunity at a ceremonial groundbreaking in summer 2009. They also said the tunnel, which was to end at West 34th Street in Manhattan, lacked connectivity to New York Penn Station and Manhattan’s prosperous east side.
The project got the derisive moniker, “The Tunnel to Macy’s Basement.”
Proponents said the project would have created 6,000 construction-related jobs a year and close to 45,000 permanent jobs once completed. They also said it would have provided transfer-free rides to Manhattan, gotten 22,000 cars off the roads every day and eliminated nearly 70,000 tons of greenhouse gasses gases each year.
Without the new two-track tunnel, which would have been able to handle an extra 25 trains per hour during peak periods, New Jersey is left with a century-old two-track tunnel that can handle 23 trains.