New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, has been nothing if not blunt about his state’s perilous financial condition. He has taken on special interests, most notably the powerful state teachers’ union, that stand in the way of achieving reforms necessary to avoid a catastrophic collapse in Trenton’s finances.
But while Mr. Christie seems eager to make tough decisions, his recent announcement that the state cannot afford to continue building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River seems shortsighted. True, Trenton is broke. Yes, the state cannot afford to conduct business as usual. But the rail tunnel, a collaborative effort with New York and the federal government, is a worthwhile investment in the Garden State’s future.
Easy access to Manhattan makes New Jersey a magnet for millions of people who either can’t afford an apartment in the city or who prefer a backyard and picket fence to go along with a job in New York. The new rail tunnel, the largest public works project in the country, would replace a century-old tunnel that is booked to capacity. Thousands more New Jersey commuters would have direct access to Manhattan, making the state an even more desirable place to live.
Mr. Christie said he was concerned about the cost overruns for a project estimated at more than $8 billion. That is a fair concern, as anybody who followed the cost of Boston’s Big Dig project knows. But the governor should also consider the rise in property values and new jobs the project will create. The governor agreed to put his decision on hold for two weeks while federal, regional and New York officials try to figure out a solution. Mr. Christie should use this time to demand accountability and transparency. Don’t kill the project, governor. Just make it work.