Christie Throws Amtrak Under the Bus He Is Driving

Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

This spring is shaping up to be one of the worst ever for New Jersey Transit commuters. Not only did they have to endure a pair of derailments in Penn Station, but this past Friday, a train was stalled inside one of the North River Tunnels for over two hours. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office released a statement this week in response to these recent transit debacles:

“Amtrak was responsible for two, back-to-back derailments leading up to Friday’s mess that stranded 1,200 people on a hot, arid train just outside Penn Station, New York… Today, Amtrak is trying to again divert attention from its failures by suggesting the problem may have been new equipment on the NJ Transit train, before a final determination has been made.”

Since the two derailments at Penn Station on March 24 and April 3, Christie has been on the road trying to look like a commuter advocate and making a case that portrays Amtrak as the party responsible for allowing infrastructure to decay under its watch. But this is merely an attempt to deflect from his own administration’s neglect of the state-run transit agency. Need we remind the governor of the impact his actions (and inactions) have had on commuters and the region’s economy? Here’s a sampling of the most notable failures to take place during Christie’s tenure (dare we say) so far:

  • October 2010: Governor Christie officially cancels ARC Tunnel Project. (Had he not, the project would have been slated to open in 2018).
  • August 2011: An NJ Transit train derailed just as the train had entered one of the North River Tunnels between New York and New Jersey, stranding 300 passengers and causing massive delays which lasted well into the following day.
  • October 2012: 261 out of 1,162 rail cars were damaged along with 63 of 203 locomotives when NJ Transit failed to move the equipment to safety in preparation for Super Storm Sandy
  • February 2014: NJ Transit commuters faced the agency’s worst month for on-time performance in 18 years.
  • July 2015: NJ Transit Board approved a 9 percent fare hike, the fifth fare hike since 2000.
  • September 2016: An NJ Transit train failed to stop and crashed into the passenger waiting area at Hoboken Terminal.
  • September 2016: Christie issued an Executive Order shutting down $4 million worth of NJ Transit projects due to a failure to reach an agreement to fund the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund.
  • November 2016: New Jersey’s credit rating is downgraded for the 10th time since Christie took office, citing irresponsible transportation funding practices as a factor.
  • March – April 2017: See above

And then there are the ongoing crises: consider how the state’s subsidy to NJ Transit’s operating budget dropped 53 percent since 2012. Or how the governor diverted $2 billion from the Clean Energy Fund and NJ Turnpike Authority to fund NJ Transit’s operating budget to make up that hole. Or how during that time roughly $3 billion has been transferred from NJ Transit’s capital budget to fill an operating deficit. Or the mass exodus of talent at NJ Transit in the last few years.

Instead of mudslinging, Christie’s time would be better spent reflecting on what’s gone wrong, and figuring out how he can undo some of this damage in the remaining months he has in office.

2 Comments on "Christie Throws Amtrak Under the Bus He Is Driving"

  1. Rail Provocateur | April 18, 2017 at 3:24 pm |

    Perhaps Christie is looking through the funny mirrors on the Jersey Shore that distort reality, giving him the courage to foolishly claim “Amtrak was trying to again divert attention from its failures” by blaming NJT equipment malfunction. Surprising how a former Attorney General would make that false assumption, given the pantograph was on NJT equipment.

    Perhaps this is but a simple political game by New Jersey politicos and their cohorts from New York to ramp-up the pressure to be at the head of the line for dividing up any infrastructure funding?

    Amazing how Christie avoids the extensive FRA checklist of safety infractions on NJT; more to the point that could be a contributing factor here. How forgetful Christie is that NJ was relieved for so many decades of paying anything towards the NEC infrastructure until mandated by Congress in December, 2015. However, given how the heaviest usage of the NEC is from commuter services between Philadelphia-NYC-New Haven, perhaps Christie should convince his fellow governors and Northeast politicos to jump in and assume responsibility for the NEC infrastructure on this route, as it certainly serves their economic interests more than Amtrak?

    To accomplish this task, after being silent for so long on properly financing Amtrak as a national system-or nothing, perhaps Christie should propose increasing the bridge tolls, or better yet, just closing the bridges until everybody acquiesces to his vision..?

  2. Clark Morris | April 19, 2017 at 10:37 pm |

    The ARC should have been cancelled because it was made useless and more expensive by the actions of New York city and/or state to force the idiotic and more expensive terminal in Macy’s basement while contributing NO money to a project that helped New York more than it helped New Jersey (see the EIS). Christie should have redirected the money to intra-New Jersey NJT needs but that is another issue.

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