Gov. Chris Christie said a Hudson River rail tunnel project he discontinued in 2010 over cost overrun concerns “stunk” and wouldn’t have been finished in time to alleviate recent problems at New York’s Penn Station anyway.
The Republican’s comments came a day after he stood silently at a news conference at Newark’s train station while Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker heatedly denounced those who blamed the current transit mess on Christie’s actions years ago.
“I have absolutely no regrets about that decision, and over the course of time that decision will be proved to be right,” Christie said Thursday at an unrelated groundbreaking in Atlantic City for a satellite campus of Stockton University.
In the last month, two minor derailments at New York’s Penn Station have created havoc for hundreds of thousands of Northeast Corridor commuters. The second derailment, on April 3, knocked out eight of 21 tracks and forced commuter rail lines to run limited service.
In addition, last Friday, a New Jersey Transit train was disabled in a tunnel for nearly three hours. As crowds swelled in the station, police used a stun gun to subdue a man who was causing a disturbance, and a stampede ensued.
Christie pulled the plug on the ARC, or Access to the Region’s Core, tunnel over concerns New Jersey taxpayers would be forced to foot the bill for up to $5 billion in cost overruns. A Government Accountability Office report later disputed those numbers.
The project had other problems, Christie said Thursday: The tunnel terminated in the basement of Macy’s department store, making access to other rail lines more difficult, and New York City and New York state weren’t helping to pay for the project.
In contrast, a massive new project in the early stages, dubbed Gateway, which would build a new tunnel and expand Penn Station, will be paid for by New Jersey, New York and the federal government, Christie said.
“When the Gateway tunnel is open and people see that project, they’re going to be glad they had a governor who forced New York state and New York City to pay their fair share and that they have a project that was actually going to go someplace where they could get someplace once they arrived, which the ARC project wasn’t going to do for them,” he said.
The existing 110-year-old tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City is a source of regular delays due to overhead wire problems, and it suffered severe saltwater damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Amtrak, which owns and operates the tunnel and Penn Station, has said rail service would be cut back 75 percent during peak times if one of the tunnel’s two tubes has to be closed for Sandy-related repairs.