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N.J. governor blocks transit tunnel

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday killed a decades-in-the-making train tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan, saying the state can't afford to pay for cost overruns on the underway project.

Construction on the project began last year and was scheduled to be completed in 2018. The largest federal transportation project in the country, it was expected to double train traffic in and out of New York City during peak commute times. Metro's interim general manager, Richard Sarles, was head of New Jersey Transit when the project began in June 2009.

Plans had been in the works for 20 years, but the cost for the tunnel has nearly doubled since a 2005 estimate of $5 billion. Projections grew to $8.7 billion by 2008. In recent months, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff put the price tag between $9 billion and $10 billion.

At a news conference Thursday, Christie said: "I can't put taxpayers on a never-ending hook."

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.

Currently, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak share a century-old two-track tunnel beneath the Hudson River. The new tunnel would have added two more tracks, doubling the number of New Jersey Transit trains that could pass under the river.

This summer Maryland and 10 other states asked federal railroad officials to develop a plan to upgrade high-speed passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor over the next four decades.

New Jersey had committed $2.7 billion to the tunnel project. The federal government and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had each pledged $3 billion.

So far, about $600 million has been spent. New Jersey could be on the hook to repay half of that to the federal government for breaking its commitment.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has said canceling the tunnel would violate an agreement with the U.S. government in which New Jersey committed itself to the project in exchange for $3 billion in federal funding. He and other tunnel proponents planned to speak out on the governor's decision later Thursday.

-- Wire and staff reports

By Michael Bolden  | October 7, 2010; 2:04 PM ET
Categories:  Amtrak, Transit, Transportation Politics  
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The federal government was supposed to pay New Jersey $3 billion for making a $2.7 billion PLUS OVERRUNS committment?

Money laundering is more respectable.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 7, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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