For immediate release
Gov. Christie's decision to cancel the Access to the Region's Core rail tunnel is a disinvestment in the state's future. The governor cited potential cost overruns, but canceling the project instead of finding ways to contain these overruns was the wrong decision. Everyone -- including the governor -- knows that an expansion of rail capacity between New Jersey and Manhattan is needed. The death of ARC will set back efforts to relieve this bottleneck by at least a generation, and will mean a more expensive project in future years.
The decision is a tragic example of how shortsighted political decisions can trump efforts to create a healthier economy and environment in the long run.
New Jerseyans will lose out on what would have been the project's benefits: job creation, reduced traffic and pollution, time savings for commuters, and increased property values around connecting stations. It is giving up $3 billion in federal and $3 billion in Port Authority funds.
The Governor still needs to deal with a very real problem that the state faces going forward -- traveling across the Hudson River is a nightmare and is only going to get worse. Trips across the River are expected to increase 25% by 2030 and Governor Christie has no plan to ameliorate this situation.
There is no way to make up for the loss of ARC. Improvements to the PATH are already underway, and expanding roadways into and out of New York City is an impossibility. Though not a replacement for ARC, one way to improve regional commuting would be to invest in improved cross-Hudson bus service. NJ Transit and private buses carry 315,000 people across the Hudson River every day, but there is virtually no room to increase bus service. A second morning express bus lane at the Lincoln Tunnel, a westbound evening express bus lane through the Tunnel, and an expansion of the Port Authority Bus Terminal would provide relief and allow for continued growth in transit ridership. Governor Christie and Governor Paterson must direct the Port Authority to expeditiously move forward on these projects, which could be built using some of the Port Authority funds that would have gone to ARC.
It would be particularly discouraging if ARC was sacrificed to shore up the state's Transportation Trust Fund. This quick fix 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. The crushing transportation debt load and bottom-of-the-barrel infrastructure faced by today's citizens are a direct result of state leaders' unwillingness to increase the gas tax, which is the third lowest in the country and has not been raised since 1988. New Jersey has not adequately funded transportation in decades, and putting off the tough choices yet again will mean more pain for future generations. We had hoped that Governor Christie would champion lasting structural reform -- not join the long list of politicians who have opted for short-term budget gimmicks instead.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. www.tstc.org