Elegy For a Train Tunnel

arc1 Elegy For a Train TunnelCapital New York’s got a solid piece on the likelihood that Governor Chris Christie will shelve plans to build a new train tunnel under the Hudson River, a project known as ARC (it stands for “Access to the Region’s Core”). 

The project would do the following: 

Named “Access to the Region’s Core,” or A.R.C., the project would build a new tunnel under the Hudson River connecting New York City and northern New Jersey, allowing 80,000 new riders to gush into Manhattan every day to work in its offices. Lots of new train service to north Jersey suburbs would offer a one-seat ride to Manhattan-bound commuters in places like Passaic, Paterson, North Hackensack and Teterboro, increasing property values in these towns by a total of $18 billion, according to a study by the Regional Plan Association. New planned office towers in Manhattan, like the massive new office building Steve Roth’s Vornado Realty Trust wants to build right next to Penn Station, and buildings planned for a platform above the West Side Railyards, would be injected with adrenaline in a sagging economy. Commuters would get a less crowded ride, and ever-growing Amtrak could fit more trains (for a few years) into at-capacity Penn Station. All at a cost of about $8.7 billion.

Despite the project’s obvious benefits, despite the fact that ground has already been broken on the tunnel, and despite a lot of funding already allocated, Mr. Christie is likely to shelve the project and use the funds to address the state’s crippling debt.

As Eliot Brown, late of The Observer, explains:

[C]hristie had no great incentive to push for something that was not going to be his legacy project: He was not at that North Bergen groundbreaking, and, with a ribbon cutting targeted somewhere around 2018, he would not be there for the completion.

And the consituents in New York that would benefit from the project are not among Christie’s voters; their own New York politicians are in no place to criticize, given that they have not put up money of their own.

If Christie pulls the plug, the best advocates for the project could hope for is a delay. But its rare for the existing funding on a project to remain intact through years of such delay. And that would probably be the end of A.R.C. With $600 million already spent on the project and the federal government having earmarked $3 billion to help with the costs, it’s hard to imagine when the region will be able to round up that kind of money again, then redraft the plan, go through years of construction, and put a spade in the ground, for real this time.

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