Thursday, October 28, 2010

NJ Gov Christie Blows Another $350 Million

Governor Rejects Huge Rail Project Already In Progress - Must Repay Fed

I've recently moved to New Jersey and use the New Jersey Transit rail system five or six days a week to get to and from work. It's a pretty good system, I imagine no better or worse than any rail system in the US, subjected to occasional delays but for the most part, relatively reliable.  The one thing that is strange however, is that as the population has expanded to the suburbs and train ridership has increased over the course of years, the rail system hasn't been able to keep up.  There are only one pair of single track tunnels connecting New Jersey to Penn Station.  Those tracks are owned by Amtrak, and they have priority to let their trains pull in first, leaving NJ Transit trains sitting on the tracks waiting for permission to enter the station.

Well that was all going to change with a program called Access to the Region's Core (ARC), a "big dig" that would have created a new set of tracks below 34th Street and controlled by New Jersey Transit.  No waiting to get in. The project was estimated at $8.7 billion, $6 billion of which would have been provided by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey  and the Federal Transportation Department. New Jersey would have to come up with the $2.7 billion balance. The project also would have provided 6,000 construction jobs and once the tunnel was completed, another estimated 40,000 jobs.

The project was underway, two decades in the planning, but was killed by Republican Governor Chris Christie when he looked into possible cost overruns he didn't want the citizens of New Jersey to be responsible for.  At a glance, it looks like a reasonable concern.  But dig deeper and you realize the partisan rhetoric and politicking that is going on.

Christie is the new GOP darling.  The no-nonsense, fiscal conservative who is slashing spending to get New Jersey in the black.  But if he truly cared about the citizens of his state, he would have been in his office trying to crunch the numbers to make this project work for the benefit of New Jersey Transit and its commuters instead of stumping for GOP candidates in Massachusetts, Connecticut,  Pennsylvania, and anywhere else (19 candidates to date) he can show his face to get name recognition for a possible 2012 run for the White House.

The fact is that $3 billion has been slated from the Port Authority of NY/NJ and another $3 billion from the Federal Transportation Department. So, less than the projected 1/3 of the money ($2.7 billion) would be coming from New Jersey. Even with projected cost overruns of $2 billion, New Jersey would still be footing less than 50% of the bill without even attempting to ask for Federal aid in the future for the project. Let alone the 6,000 construction jobs and the projected 40,000 jobs after completion that have been lost as Governor Nero has turned his thumb down to the project.

"I don’t want to hear about the jobs it will create. If I don’t have the money for the payroll," it will not create the jobs, Christie said. "This is not a difficult decision for me."
And if you want to talk about fiscal conservatism, Christie's cancellation of the project now puts New Jersey on the hook for $350 million we have to repay the federal government with absolutely nothing to show for it.  That combined with the Governor's boneheaded botching of the education grant, and Mr. Fiscal Responsibility as cost the state $750 million in his first 10 months.

But the fact of the matter is, Christie is just trying to make a name for himself; the new GOP governor pushing back against the big, bad federal government. It may play politically for Christie, but New Jersey residents will pay one way or the other. So far, they've paid to the tune of three quarters of a billion dollars for, apparently, nothing.

Heckuva job, Christie.

1 comment:

Virtual Kevin said...

Who the hell did he think would be using the new tunnel??

Uhm... NJ voters!! I can't believe people voted for this bully!

Friends of mine suggest he is looking for a national ticket and is simply trying to make his budget skills look good for the future...what an ass!! God forbid we employ NJ voters to work on a NJ infrastructure project!.

F'ing Cheapsakate! He gets to work in NJ, most of us have to work in NYC to afford NJ taxes. At least they could be used to make my commute easier.