Gov. Chris Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak issued the following statement in response to an announcement from U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg that he plans an investigation into the governor’s cancelation of the ARC tunnel project:
“We don’t know how much clearer the Governor could be: New Jersey cannot afford to be on the hook with a blank check for this project stretching years into the future. It is not fair or responsible to do that to our taxpayers. Senator Lautenberg has been in Washington for too long and has clearly lost touch with New Jersey, its taxpayers and fiscal condition.
The project that Senator Lautenberg is most proud of is also the one that will cost his constituents – New Jersey families – the most. Instead of this caustic outburst from him, perhaps the Senator can explain why he is insisting New Jersey tax and toll payers fund 70 percent of a project while billions in federal funding pour out of Washington for high-speed rail lines in other states like Florida, which will pay only 20 percent of project costs.”
As part of the investigation, Lautenberg said he would probe a potential conflict of interest on the part of state Commissioner of Transportaion James Simpson. The conflict arose, Lautenberg said, because Simpson oversaw work on the ARC Tunnel for the federal government under President George W. Bush as the head of the Federal Transit Administration before coming to work in New Jersey.
Drewniak said the administration is confident no conflict exists.
“We are confident that there is no conflict as Mr. Simpson awaits a final determination from the state Ethics Commission,” he said. “After it was raised publicly (by Assemblyman John Wisniewski), Simpson self-reported to the State Ethics Commission, and then recused himself from further participation on the ARC steering committee. As you’ve seen, the reports to the Governor came from the chair of that committee, Jim Weinstein. Of course, it was the Governor who made the decision, based on the costs of the project and funding imbalance from Washington and other benefitting jurisdictions.”
Lautenberg said a preliminary report on his investigation will be delivered before the end of the year with a final report to follow within six months.