Volume 80, Number 20 | October 14 - 20, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Editorial

Don’t kill rail tunnel

The Gravina Island Bridge, a.k.a. the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was the poster child of pork-barrel projects — a $398 million bridge linking an Alaska town to an island containing an airport and just 50 residents.

Sarah Palin, when she was Alaska’s governor, supported the Gravina bridge wholeheartedly. But once the boondoggle public-works job was exposed for the shameful waste of taxpayer funds it was, she backpedaled; when she was running as the G.O.P. vice presidential candidate, she proclaimed she had actually led the effort to kill the bogus bridge.

Now another Republican governor, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, has killed a transportation project — and, in this case, he really does deserve the credit for doing so. But, in this instance, it’s a vital project that’s badly needed: the construction of a second cross-Hudson River commuter rail tunnel for New Jersey Transit that would terminate at 34th St. in Midtown.

Known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, budgeted at $8.7 billion, the tunnel — already under construction — was the nation’s largest transportation project. The existing NJ Transit rail tunnel is a century old and running nearly at capacity.

One-third of the funding was to come from New Jersey, and one-third each from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The federal funding had already been locked in — more federal money than for any other public transportation project in America. Transportation advocates called the ARC tunnel’s funding especially “solid.”

In explaining his shocking decision, Christie cited his concerns about projected cost overruns of up to $2 billion or more that New Jersey would have had to pay. Instead, he’ll try to shift the money earmarked for the tunnel to local transportation projects and rail repairs. However, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted, Christie could have raised gas taxes slightly to cover the tunnel’s extra cost — a small price to pay for the reduced congestion and traffic the new rail tunnel would bring about. Instead, Krugman noted, Christie, in deep-sixing the tunnel, has dealt “a blow to national hopes of recovery.”

The Republicans — in staking out their obstructionist position as “the party of no” — may wind up winning some votes, as a result, in the upcoming elections. But, at a certain point, they are the ones causing the economic suffering. One wonders to what extent Christie’s canceling the tunnel is merely another expression of this tiresome, destructive “stick it to the Democrats” attitude. After all, it was three Dem’s — former Governor Jon Corzine and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez — who pushed for the project in the first place.

Among the victims of Christie’s shortsighted action will be those working on the project, who will now be laid off. The tunnel was eventually to employ up to 6,000 people. Indeed, the whole regional public-works sector will feel the loss of this massive job.

According to the Daily News, by scrapping the project, New Jersey will lose the $3 billion in federal funds, is jeopardizing the $3 billion from the Port Authority, and may even have to pay back $600 million to the feds.

On the other hand, positives the project would bring would be less congestion on our roads and less pollution — things people on both sides of the Hudson would gladly welcome.

We sincerely hope Governor Christie reconsiders his decision. This is a project with enormous benefits for both New York and New Jersey. Let’s not allow it to fall by the wayside because of misguided partisan politics.

 

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