Christie, Foxx meeting to discuss NYC rail tunnel

Christie, Foxx meeting to discuss NYC rail tunnel
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Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) are meeting Tuesday to discuss train tunnel problems that have emerged as a political issue as Christie runs for president. 

Christie's gubernatorial office said the meeting with Foxx is scheduled to take place in Newark on Tuesday, after weeks of transportation advocates blaming the governor's cancelation of an earlier train tunnel for rail delays that have plagued New Jersey commuters this summer. 

Foxx requested the meeting with Christie about the condition of the rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey in July, saying "the condition of the trans-Hudson tunnels is a major threat to the region and to our nation's transportation system." 

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"Our administration has long been committed to building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River," Foxx wrote in a July 27 letter to Christie and Cuomo requesting the meeting, noting Christie's rejection of the earlier tunnel project. 

"President Obama and former Secretary Ray LaHood pledged $3 billion to the ARC tunnel five years ago," Foxx continued. "The project was canceled, the funds were directed elsewhere, and the prospect of a new tunnel has languished. It is increasingly clear that the problems of this crumbling asset will not go away, and we remain committed to advancing needed repairs and replacements." 

Killing the rail tunnel, known as the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) project, was one of Christie's first high-profile decisions after he was elected in 2009 in a surprise win over then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.

The project was originally projected to cost $8.7 billion, but it faced cost overruns. When Christie canceled it, the price tag was up to $11 billion. 

Christie cast the decision at the time as an example of the type of fiscal responsibility that he promised voters in the Garden State when they elected him governor. 

"Considering the unprecedented fiscal and economic climate our state is facing, it is completely unthinkable to borrow more money and leave taxpayers responsible for billions in cost overruns," he said in an October 2010 statement. "The ARC project costs far more than New Jersey taxpayers can afford and the only prudent move is to end this project."

New Jersey transportation officials have reiterated Christie's position on the canceled rail tunnel ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Foxx, saying the 2016 hopeful would support a plan to boost rail capacity between New Jersey and New York that makes more sense than the ill-fated ARC project. 

"It is convenient for critics to gloss over problems with the Access to the Region's Core proposal, but the project was a raw deal for New Jersey taxpayers and not ideal for commuters," NJ Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim wrote in a letter to the editor in the Bergen County, N.J., Record newspaper. 

"Rather than fully integrate with the existing infrastructure of our region — the Northeast Corridor owned and operated by Amtrak, Penn Station on Manhattan's West Side or Grand Central Terminal on the East Side — the ARC tunnel would have ended at a newly constructed station seven stories below 34th Street in Manhattan," Hakim continued.  

Amtrak officials have identified expanding train capacity between New Jersey and New York as one of the company's most pressing needs. They have put forth a new proposal, called the Gateway project, to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River to double the train capacity between New Jersey and New York.

"The century-old tunnels require constant attention and maintenance, but the volume of traffic is simply too high to permit maintenance and repair work during weekdays," Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman wrote in a February letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Vice President Biden detailing Amtrak's 2016 budget requests, noting that the tunnels were first opened in 1910. 

Transportation advocates have said the original tunnel that was canceled by Christie would have eased commutes between New Jersey and New York City. 

Christie has said recently on the presidential campaign trail that he would be willing to revisit the issue of tunnel if New York is willing to up its contribution to the project but not if the proposal is identical to the earlier project he canceled in 2010. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was also invited to attend Tuesday's meeting, but he is not scheduled to be in attendance. 

Cuomo has said that he is unwilling to pay for construction of a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey

"It's not my tunnel. Why don't you pay for it?" he told reporters, according to an Aug. 11 Associated Press report. 

"It is an Amtrak tunnel that is used by Amtrak and by New Jersey Transit," Cuomo said.