Access to the Region’s Core Officially Canceled

Gov. Christie has officially canceled the Access to the Region’s Core rail tunnel between NYC and New Jersey, condemning commuters to the status quo of frequently delayed and unreliable train service, setting back efforts to relieve the Hudson River rail bottleneck by at least a generation, and forfeiting $6 billion in federal New Starts and Port Authority funding. In a statement, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said the decision was “a disinvestment in the state’s future” and that canceling the project instead of finding a way to contain cost overruns was the wrong decision.

The governor rejected several options to finance cost overruns and reduce project costs. USDOT offered the state a low-interest loan from the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, essentially a letter of credit that could be used to cover virtually all potential overruns. Another option was a public-private partnership that could assume some of the project risk. Finally, federal and NJ Transit officials identified $700 million in project elements which could be deferred or eliminated.

There was much at stake:

  • A faster, more reliable commute for NJ Transit rail riders.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less congested highways. The project was expected to lower emissions by 66,000 tons and take 22,000 cars off the road every year.
  • Higher property values for New Jerseyans living near rail stations, as well as the potential for increased transit-oriented development.
  • Other commuter rail projects like the long-discussed Middlesex-Ocean-Monmouth line, which are effectively precluded until the Hudson River bottleneck is relieved.

New Jersey will miss out on all of these.

The state still faces the challenge of replenishing its Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for most road, bridge, and transit projects. Christie administration officials have pointed out that canceling ARC would allow the state’s portion of project funding to be redirected to other projects. But at most this would only be enough to get the fund through a year or two, after which the state will be faced with a bankrupt transportation system yet again.

8 Comments on "Access to the Region’s Core Officially Canceled"

  1. Richard Rabinowitz | October 27, 2010 at 3:54 pm |

    Then we’ll just have to keep looking for financing sources in the short run and possibly oust Christie by some means in the long run. I’m not giving up on ARC. Are you really?

  2. Richard Rabinowitz | October 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm |

    Christie is always welcome back into my good graces if he reconsiders. After all, isn’t there a saying, “love the sinner, but hate the sin”?

  3. Richard Rabinowitz | October 27, 2010 at 3:58 pm |

    One nitpick. “Other commuter rail projects like the long-discussed Middlesex-Ocean-Monmouth line, which are effectively precluded until the Hudson River bottleneck is relieved.” I disagree with that comment. How is relieving the Hudson River bottleneck necessary for MOM to proceed? Why not just end MOM at New Brunswick or Red Bank or something and build up the downtown areas there?

  4. Richard Rabinowitz | October 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm |

    But judging from everyone’s reaction, this is a polarizing act done just before an election. In this case, I’m siding with Lautenberg and LaHood against Christie. In the future, if Christie shows common sense, I might side with him. My door is always open.

  5. Clark Morris | October 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm |

    Until the project is redesigned to go to Penn Station it should remain dead. By going to Penn Station, the expansion to the east is not precluded while Water tunnel concerns probably mean that the 34th street station would always be a dead end. If New York state and city are unwilling to cooperate to make a tunnel to the existing Penn Station feasible, then let the failure to put in the tunnel that is better for BOTH NJT and Amtrak rest on their shoulders. Also why should New Jersey spend most of the money when New York State gets most of the benefit?

    A rethink also could eliminate the detour around Weehawken.

  6. The question now is what will happen to the $3 billion in both federal and Port Authority spending earmarked for the tunnel. Will the Feds split it up among other states, or will it go to one project, i.e. the Second Avenue Subway or a rail component for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement? Will the PA bank the money, invest in the ports, or sink a bit in PATH improvements?

    I know my Connecticut could use that $3 billion for a number of projects (a billion alone could achieve a full double-tracking and electrification of the New Haven-Springfield corridor according to the state DOT).

  7. clever-title | October 28, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    The Portal Bridge replacement is still a good idea, even if the new tunnel is cancelled. Failures to close the bridge cause a large number of delays.

    One thing I haven’t read in the discussions over ARC is that the Penn. RR had plans for adding 2 more tunnels alongside the existing ones (I read it in Conquering Gotham). Why did NJT/Amtrak not use that alignment to get to Penn Sta?

  8. Glad it’s dead. Now, more rational plans can be developed instead of the half-baked George Warrington pet project, the Tunnel to Macy’s Basement.

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