The Access-To-Region-Core Tunnel Debacle

Without a good infrastructure, there can not be economic growth.

There is no chance that a new tunnel will be planned – much less built – within any near future. And it was just announced that MTA # 7 train will not be extended to New Jersey after all. Our rail crossings of the Hudson River will remain the two 100-year-old tubes shared by Amtrak and NJ Transit.

When governor Christie announced the cancellation of ARC in October 2010, I was not critical of his decision, based on the figures he provided and the fiscal situation of New Jersey. I also had some reservations on the New York end of the tunnel although I must confess I did not have an abundance of knowledge of the engineering portion of the job.

It now appears that governor Christie misled the people of New Jersey with a deliberate campaign of exaggeration of the cost in order to justify the cancellation of the project. And it also appears self-evident that at least one of his motives was to raid the Port Authority NJ-funds allocated to ARC to refill the empty coffers of the NJ Transportation Fund. The latter is supposed to be funded by the NJ gas tax but that revenue has been used to balance the budget rather than fixing roads and bridges. 

U.S. GAO – Commuter Rail: Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project.

“I refuse to compromise my principles,” Christie said, according to the Star-Ledger. “So when they want to build a tunnel to the basement of a Macy’s and stick the New Jersey taxpayers with a bill of $3 to $5 billion over, no matter how much the administration yells and screams, you have to say no. You have to look them right in the eye, no matter how much they try to vilify you for it, and you have to say no. You have to be willing to say no to those things that compromise your principles.”

Christie has become a legend in his own mind but cancelling the tunnel and turning down the $3 billion in federal funds for it have made him a rock star in the intellectually challenged republican party.

It was Jeff Tittle, the unpredictable director of the Sierra Club in New Jersey, who coined the phrase “The Tunnel to Macy’s basement.”  Thanks Jeff. Sometimes I wonder on whose side the Sierra Club is. It is possible that the Sierra Club is on the side of the Sierra Club. In any event, Christie rapidly adopted the catchy propaganda line, as well as an odd cost-projection made by the Federal Transportation Administration which estimated a higher cost rising curve in August 2010. Both allowed Christie to put his foot in the door: He cancelled the ARC and took the Port Authority money.

NJSpotlight writes that Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman, emphasized in an email yesterday: “No matter what projects are proposed or under consideration now or in the future, the governor will not sign New Jersey up for another such project unless there is a truly equitable cost-sharing structure, with participation from all the benefiting parties, including New York.”

Allegedly, the issue, according to Drewniak,  is how Port Authority of NY and NJ had distributed its revenue. Remember ARC was a NJ/NY/US/Port Authority operation. Whereas  the Port Authority had marked its NJ revenue for the tunnel, which would benefit both NY and NJ, it put all the NY money into the World Trade Center tower which only benefits NYC. But the PA management is – to  great extent – Christie’s creation. He is the one who has sent  as many as 50 0f his buddies there. He has got no one to blame but himself.

If the GAO report is correct and the cancellation was done to cannibalize the ARC money to refill the empty coffers of the NJ Transportation Fund, this may turn out to be the stupidest act by this administration. Once the work had been advanced sufficiently, a correction to the NY-end could have been more easily considered. A vital infrastructure project and engine for regional job creation was dismantled just to perform a political stunt.

Governor Christie has not hesitated in committing public funds to private construction projects which have much less benefit to New Jersey. Among those are the Revel casino, the Xanadu mall, and the relocation of several companies withing the state. Comparatively, the cost of the tunnel would have been greater but so would have been its benefits and the latter would have been longer lasting. A tunnel is there to stay for the next 100 years. We can not say the same for the Revel or Xanadu.

Now what?

If I am elected governor in 2013 I will take several steps to set the conditions right so that if there a possible interstate agreement on building a tunnel, New Jersey will be in shape to undertake the enterprise .

1. I will seek to reform the NJ contract bidding laws to make cost overruns in public projects less likely. This effort may include making performance bonds mandatory in public contracts and allowing change-orders only in catastrophic circumstances. These measures will make low, unrealistic bidding with-the-idea-of-inflating-the-price-as-we-go, less likely.

2. The Port Authority of NY and NJ is an interstate compact sanctioned by Congress. I would most likely seek to denounce the compact and extricate New Jersey from the PA. Because the bridges and tunnels connecting NJ and NY are still – on this side of the Hudson – on NJ territory, we would have a say on the tolls. This separation would allow New Jersey to keep all its portion of the revenue generated from the river crossings and eliminate a site of festering political patronage.

3. Actively seek the partnership of the U.S., New York, and Amtrak toward the new tunnel.

4. Reanimate the New Jersey economy so that we are on sounder fiscal footing to engage in this grand undertaking.

We need that new tunnel. But if we attract businesses from NYC to NJ – as I expect once our tax, economic, and political reforms are in place – we shall need that new tunnel more than we need it now.

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Christie Loyalists Flood the Port Authority of NY and NJ

Dozens of Port Authority jobs go to Christie loyalists – NorthJersey.com.

Perhaps the solution is to dissolve the Port Authority of NY and NJ and give the task of maintaining our side of the bridges and tunnels, as well as Newark International Airport to the NJ DOT. New York can do its own side.

Every additional independent authority or commission represents another layer of bureaucrats and proliferation of abuses and waste. It is in the interest of New Jersey to reduce the number of such agencies to a minimum.

Governor Christie is just another politician fleecing New Jersey. Only a  strong Civil Service Law will prevent these abuses. I am the only candidate for governor of New Jersey in 2013 willing to undertake such monumental task. Both dominant political parties will oppose reform tooth and nail.

Frommer’s Bashes Port Authority of NY and NJ

Newark Airport Terminal B – The 10 Worst Airport Terminals Slideshow at Frommer’s.

” All three major New York City airports are on this list, in large part because they’re run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a hideously mismanaged money sink that does a poor job of responding to air travelers’ needs.”

That is Frommer’s speaking – the famous travel guide – not me.

Of the 3, Newark is the worst. Of course the two complicit governments, NY and NJ, have a lot to answer for.

Port Authority of NY and NJ hearings, as set, are just a sham to fulfill legal requirement

http://www.nj.com/ledgerlive/index.ssf/2011/08/port_authority_public_toll_hik.html

The hearings have been set in off-track locations and during work hours so most affected commuters can not attend because they are at work. This is a brazen act of fleecing the public without any accountability or respect.

The decision has already been made by the highest circles, including the two governors. The bulk of the shame goes to governor Christie because the majority of the daily users of the crossings over the Hudson are New Jersians.

In the short term, I tend to believe that a small toll increase is necessary, under the current administration because governor Christie is not going to change anything.

In the long term, the PA should be reformed to reflect the interests of New Jersey better. The PA is heavily involved in the reconstruction of the WTC however, being a dual state agency, it has never engaged, as far as I know, in a comparable capital project in New Jersey.

In other words, a portion of the proposed toll hikes on the Hudson, which, as I mentioned above, are mostly paid by New Jersians, will go to a building or set of buildings in NYC. Those buildings, in turn, may attract businesses from New Jersey to move to N.Y.C.

We New Jersians are getting short-changed in this arrangement.

Furthermore, in the post-Christie government, the PA, which is a nest of political patronage like every other agency in New Jersey, must be re-structured to limit the number of political appointments, as we reform civil service law in New Jersey, as I have proposed.

Port Authority 1 – N.J. commuters 0

http://www.northjersey.com/news/ChristiewontruleoutsometollhikeforPortAuthority.html

This is the center tube of the Lincoln tunnel shortly after its completion in 1937 (Photo by New Deal Network)

The police officer standing there would suffocate today with the traffic and fumes after a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first issue to bring up is that the Port Authority of N.Y and N.J ., like most if not all independents subdivisions of government in New Jersey (and probably in New York as well), is a nest of political patronage and waste. It needs reform and I am truly troubled by the fact that it is carrying out a massive capital investment in New York City (the WTC site) while it is asking New Jersey commuters to foot a higher toll to cross the Hudson.

Note that the bulk of daily users of the two tunnels and the bridge on the Hudson are New Jersey residents who work in New York City.

The second point is the weaseling of two governors in dealing with this issue. Governor Christie: Be honest and come up clean with the declaration of what is needed. Stop the games. It is too late and the situation is too serious  for political games.

With all that out of my chest, I must say that I support infrastructure improvements and enhancements. But we must clean the house first.