Economics for the Earth Blog

New Jersey Governor Blocks Crucial Transit Tunnel

Posted Dec. 7, 2010 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

For Immediate Release
October 27, 2010

Contact:
Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748, nberning@foe.org

New Jersey Governor Blocks Crucial Transit Tunnel

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A decision by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today to block construction of a commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan will harm the state’s residents, according to an analyst at Friends of the Earth.

“Commuter rail is a win-win, reducing travel times and pollution. Governor Christie’s decision to veto this tunnel means New Jersey’s residents are going to be stuck sitting in more traffic jams while they breathe dirtier air,” said Severin Skolrud, Federal Transportation Policy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The governor’s decision to build more highway lanes instead will increase pollution without solving traffic problems, and it’s all going to be funded at New Jersey taxpayers’ expense.”

The Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel, would have been one of the largest public transit projects in the country. Governor Christie claimed he cancelled it because New Jersey doesn’t have sufficient funding. Yet the project had received $3 billion from the Federal Transit Administration, $3 billion from the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, and $2.7 billion in project funds from the New Jersey department of transportation, bringing the total raised to about $8.7 billion. The U.S. Department of Transportation predicted the total project cost would range from $9.7 to $12.7 billion. The remainder could have been borrowed from the Build America Bond program or by raising New Jersey’s gas tax—one of the lowest in the country—but Governor Christie declined to do so.

However, while Governor Christie claimed he didn’t want to burden New Jersey taxpayers by financing the remainder of the ARC tunnel, he had no qualms about borrowing $2 billion from the Build America Bond program to widen the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

“It is short sighted to prioritize new highway construction over public transit construction, and hypocritical for the governor to say no money can be found for a rail tunnel at the same time funding is directed to highways,” Skolrud said. “New highways mean new pollution, as they quickly become clogged with new cars. And highway construction produces fewer jobs per dollar spent than public transit construction. It’s a no-brainer: the better investment would have been to direct these funds to the ARC tunnel.”

Experts have estimated that the ARC tunnel project would have created 6,000 construction jobs and 44,000 permanent jobs once completed. The tunnel would also have removed an estimated 22,000 cars from the roads each day, reducing carbon pollution by 70,000 tons each year. The ARC had been under development for more than 20 years and had broad support.

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Friends of the Earth and our network of grassroots groups in 77 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to global warming, protecting people from toxic and new, potentially harmful technologies, and promoting smarter, low-pollution transportation alternatives.

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