Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Christie To Kill ARC Project- Tunnel Vision For The Future; His Own


There was once a time when New Jersey made things. We had auto assembly plants, breweries, factories that made electronic components, and New Jersey built some of America's first super highways, like US 1, the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike. We had "cloverleaves" and bridge projects, and Trenton used to make, and the world did take.

We used to have a film industry here as well. Actually, the first films were produced by Thomas Edison, and there were studios in Fort Lee, before sunny California beckoned the fledgling movie moguls. In more recent years TV became an important industry in New Jersey with The Sopranos and most recently Law and Order; SVU.

Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese wanted to film HBO's Boardwalk Empire in Asbury Park. However, the tax credit given for film production was discontinued by the new administration of Governor Chris Christie, the tough talking guy who's the nation's Republicans have fallen in love with- probably because they don't have to deal with him on a daily basis. Anyway, Boardwalk Empire moved it's operation to Brooklyn, and SVU crossed the Hudson into New York after spending it's first 11 seasons being filmed in New Jersey. New York offers a tax credit for film production; NJ doesn't. Say goodbye to New Jersey's film industry.

On May 3, 2009 the largest public works project in the United States was begun in North Bergen, a new railroad tunnel, the first in nearly a century to connect New Jersey and New York. The project was known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC. The tunnel would burrow 100 feet below the Hudson River and end at a new 34th Street train station in Manhattan. At the station there would be access to 14 subway lines, PATH trains, and the Long Island Railroad. The full story behind the tunnel and the history of previous construction can be found here.

The tunnel project would provide thousands of construction jobs in Northern New Jersey, as many as 40,000 permanent job after the completion of the tunnel project, would cut the commute time for some riders in half, and add increased property value to tens of thousands of New Jersey homes. Candidate Chris Christie supported the tunnel project and reaffirmed his commitment to it after his election.

But today, Governor Chris Christie, citing cost over runs of $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion has decided to cancel the ARC project for good. He initially canceled the project on October 7, but then conferred with US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and went on to further review the funding over the next two weeks, in between his stops across America campaigning for Republican candidates in this year's mid term elections.

Some will call Chris Christie a man of vision. But I for one see him a man of only one vision- of himself as the Republican challenger for the presidency of the United States in 2012.

Christie appears to be adamant in obtaining federal money to cover any cost overruns; in using this approach he puts the onus on the Feds for the collapse of the ARC project while enhancing his status as a tax cutting, spending slashing, fire breathing star of the GOP. He can flip flop on his commitment to the tunnel project because it died because the Obama administration won't give New Jersey anymore he'll say.

And while federal authorities have offered to find alternate financing or even scale back the project, Chris Christie appears to be entrenched and inflexible in his position, despite the benefits the completion of the ARC project would have. The commuter, already saddled with higher fees and less service since Christie took office, is getting socked yet again.

Here's what I find most disturbing. When the state of New Jersey said it would not fund the $1.5 billion New Meadowlands Stadium, the ownership of the Giants and Jets found ways to get it financed and built. I find it it impossible to believe that New Jersey, with the resources available from both the public and private sector, couldn't find a way to cover any potential overruns. If the overrun was low at $1.1 billion, you mean to say the state, the Feds, and the Port Authority couldn't find a way to get the cash and get it done now? Because the bottomline is new tunnels will be needed, and needed soon. At what point do the existing one hundred year old tunnels become so unsafe that they have to be closed, leaving New Jersey, New York, and AMTRAK in an impossible situation managing the masses that commute or use the train for travel along the Eastern Seaboard.

In this two week window of review since the first closure of the ARC project, it appears that Governor Christie spent little time in seeking alternate financing to get the job done. It's pretty hard to do your job properly when the chief executive of New Jersey is at a GOP dinner in Indiana..... or in in Connecticut campaigning for Linda McMahon.... or in Florida, stumping for Marco Rubio. In the past six weeks or so when this crisis was bubbling to a surface, we could find Christie in Pennsylvania speaking for numerous candidates, or in California campaigning for Meg Whitman (and ripping into a protester in the audience....there's nothing like being confrontational to someone YOU think is confrontational to calm things down).

The Chris Christie Ego Tour 2010 seems to be winding down with the midterms on Tuesday. And much like his fiasco regarding the loss of $400 million in federal RACE TO THE TOP funding because of a clerical error- and Christie's unwillingness to compromise (or even APPEAR to compromise) with the NJEA, his decision to sink the ARC project seems to be driven by political ambition over the real needs of the state of New Jersey. This is a mistake that will impact not only New Jersey, but the whole region as well.

We....all of us....deserve so much better than this.


Sue said...

you beat me to this big story, BUT I'm gonna go ahead with my draft. This buffoon gov is a one termer for sure. Who does he think he is killing jobs while giving tax cuts to the wealthy! Just another republiscum, doing the same ole same ole! Good reporting Hugh, mine will be different but all us New Joisey residents should keep calling this big whale out whenever possible!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Sue- But I got a head start! LOL! The news started breaking about 7PM last night, so I started gathering my sources, old and new...then started typing...and found myself too tired to finish.

Looking forward to reading your take.

I agree with you. The last really successful complete two term Republican guv in Jersey was Tom Kean, SR, and that was more than twenty years ago. He was a good guy, and and a consensus builder, a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. In other words, an outsider in today's right wing GOP.

You would think Christie would be smart enough to see you can't act like a federal prosecutor when you're a governor. He's making a ton of enemies; teachers are always fair game in his eyes, but cops and firefighters, and most state and municipal employees can't stand the guy....and the commuter backlash in North Jersey is going to be huge, no question about it. You can't raise fees and cut services, and then flip flop on the ARC project and get re-elected.

I wouldn't be surprised if he either leaves office early to run for President (good riddance) or is one and done in a re-election bid.

Political career to be torpedoed by unbridled arrogance.


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