Tunnel Vision: NJ Gov. Scraps Nation's Largest Public Transit Project

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High-profile bloggers are turning a New Jersey infrastructure project into a national debate. The Garden State's Governor Chris Christie has decided to scrap an $11 billion rail tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan. The tunnel is sorely needed but New Jersey, like many other states, faces a steep budgetary shortfall. Is the governor being shortsighted or a responsible steward of the state's finances?

  • 'The Worst Policy Decision Ever Made by the Government of New Jersey,' writes Paul Krugman at The New York Times: "And that’s saying a lot. The story seems to be that Christie wants to divert the funds to road and bridge repair; but in so doing he would (a) lose huge matching funds from the Port Authority and the Feds (b) delay indefinitely a project NJ needs desperately ASAP. He could avoid these consequences by raising gasoline taxes. But no, taxes must never be raised, no matter what the tradeoffs. And it’s a social bad too: now is very much the time when we should be ramping up infrastructure spending, not cutting it... And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project."
  • This Is Vintage Paul Krugman, writes Ace of Spades: "What Krugman's really steamed about is that Christie won't just break his campaign pledge to raise gas taxes. That's what his problem really is; liberals have in mind an ever-expanding state, and for that they need ever-expanding tax revenues. Until now they have had relatively little pushback: they get slowdowns in the rate of expansion of taxation, but usually no sustained rollback. Christie represents a direct threat to that, and therefore to Paul Krugman's dreams of a well-funded, gold-plated, tax-vampire Colossus State."
  • Christie's Rationale  The Star-Ledger explains:  "Christie said he was acting on the recommendation of state transportation officials based on projections that the project, originally estimated to cost $8.7 billion, could top $14 billion, with New Jersey liable for the overruns in addition to the $2.7 billion the state had originally committed to the project under former Gov. Jon Corzine."
  • This Is Sorely Needed, writes David Schaengold at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Currently the tunnels used for this purpose operate at 100% capacity many hours every day, with the trains themselves at 100% capacity. It is impossible for any more people to commute into Penn Station from New Jersey at normal hours than currently do. Since Amtrak uses the same tunnels, it is also impossible at peak hours for any more people to take the train from Philly to Boston, say, or Providence to Washington, than currently do. Given the total economic dependency of northern New Jersey on Manhattan and the immense economic importance of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to the entire Eastern United States, you’d think doubling capacity at this bottleneck would be an obvious thing to do. Especially if the federal government has already committed to the project the largest single transit-related grant in its history.

  • Christie Is Facing Up to Reality, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway: "The project certainly seems like a no-brainer.  It’s a project vital for New Jersey’s economic growth and the Federal government and New York would pay for a large chunk of it.  But $2.5 billion is a lot of money and New Jersey is in crisis.   So, this is a case where long term good is trumped by short term realities... Another issue is that these projects take decades.   That means costs are impossible to project with any accuracy.  And politicians are forced to either keep throwing good money after bad or waste all of the sunk costs.  There’s got to be a better way.   But damned if I know what it is."
  • Let the People Decide, writes Allahpundit at Hot Air: "Why not put it to a popular referendum? Let Jerseyites decide if they’d like to pay more at the pump to fund an infrastructure project that’s already a cool bil over budget and sure to spiral onwards and upwards. The pro-tunnel side has a decent argument, and Jersey’s gas tax is already among the lowest in the nation. Maybe voters will suck it up. The anti-tunnel 'Big Dig' ads alone would be worth the price of the campaign."
  • Seems Like Christie's Making a Mistake, writes E.D. Kain at Balloon Juice: "I can’t imagine that this will be very good for the Garden State’s economic prospects, especially given how much of the money was coming from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I understand that Jersey is hurting financially, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Sometimes not spending money – not investing that money – means you lose big in the long run."

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