N.J. governor kills rail tunnel
The nation's biggest public-works project, a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, was canceled Wednesday when the governor of New Jersey announced that his state didn't have the money to pay its share of the almost $9 billion cost.
Gov. Christopher Christie, a Republican, who came into office last year promising fiscal restraint, said New Jersey couldn't afford the construction overruns. He previously rejected any gasoline tax increase to pay for the project.
"In the end, my decision does not change," Christie said at a news conference. "I cannot place upon the citizens of New Jersey an open-ended letter of credit, and that's what this project represents."
New Jersey and New York are connected by a 100-year-old, two-track rail tunnel that reached capacity several years ago and has jammed New York's Penn Station with 500,000 trips every day. In addition to New Jersey commuters, the old tunnel is used by freight and Amtrak traffic. The new tunnel, which has been almost two decades in the planning, was designed to break the bottleneck.
The state's share of the project was estimated at more than $2.7 billion. The federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are each contributing $3 billion.
Construction on the tunnel began last year. It is designed to double the capacity for NJ Transit commuter and Amtrak trains between New York and New Jersey.
The Northeast Corridor has grown increasingly congested for train traffic, and Amtrak has been studying whether there was a need for yet another tunnel between New Jersey and New York City -- in addition to the project that Christie stopped. Rail ridership between Washington and Boston is expected to double by 2030.
Christie ordered a cost review in September, suspending new work on the tunnel. He questioned the project about two weeks ago but backed off at the request of federal officials.
For the last few months, local and federal officials have been pressing Christie to back the project.
"I am extremely disappointed in Gov. Christie's decision to abandon the ARC tunnel project, which is a devastating blow to thousands of workers, millions of commuters and the state's economic future," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "The governor's decision to stop work on this project means commuters -- who would have saved 45 minutes each day thanks to the ARC tunnel -- will instead see no end to traffic congestion and ever-longer wait times on train platforms."
-- Los Angeles Times and staff reports
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