Former Gov. Chris Christie defended his 2010 decision to pull the plug on the construction of the new Hudson River tunnels contending that the financing scheme would have left New Jersey on the short end of the stick.
“Bad deal for New Jersey taxpayers, bad project, and I’m proud. It’s one of my proudest moments as governor to have the guts to cancel it,” Christie told reporters following the Christie Institute of Public Policy’s first-ever lecture series with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the Seton Hall Law School in Newark.
Lawmakers and the Murphy administration have been highly critical of Christie’s move, given that the $11.4 billion Gateway tunnel and surrounding infrastructure projects have made very little progress. The federal government contends that both states have not put up enough local dollars and have questionable financing plans for the tunnel.
The former Republican governor maintained that the project, which was called the Access to the Region’s Core Tunnel rather than the Gateway tunnel, would have incurred billions of dollars in cost overruns beyond the projected $15 billion price tag, which would have been footed by New Jersey residents.
“We had the Secretary of Transportation come up here and we talked extensively about trying to reconfigure the deal,” Christie said. “We tried to involve a public-private partnership, they didn’t want to do that.”
Moreover, the ARC project was colloquially called the tunnel to Macy’s basement, because the project would let out under 34th Street in Manhattan where a Macy’s is located, rather than Penn Station New York.
“When you’re tunneling under the Hudson River and midtown Manhattan, what the hell could go wrong?” Christie added. “We know that when you’re tunneling under major metropolitan areas that there are always going to be unforeseen things that happen that will drive up the costs. All you need to do is look at the Big Dig in Boston, to see the tens of billions of dollars in overruns.”
Late in President Barack Obama’s term, New York and New Jersey agreed to each put up 25 percent of the costs for the tunnel while the federal government would put up the other half. But once Donald Trump took office, the plan was seemingly abandoned.
“I thought we had a deal in 2017,” Christie said. But he contended that the delay by the Trump administration was really an effort to politically twist the arms of U.S Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, based in New York and one of Trump’s biggest political opponents.