Reporting Christine Sloan
TRENTON, N.J. (1010WINS / WCBS 880 / CBS 2 ) – The nation’s most expensive transit project has been stopped in its tracks.
Governor Chris Christie is threatening to permanently put the brakes on construction of a new tunnel that could make life easier for New Jersey commuters.
Construction crews were still working on the new ARC Tunnel Project near Tonnelle Avenue Wednesday, but Governor Christie has temporarily stopped work in other spots, saying he wants to review costs.
Now, leaks within the administration indicate Christie wants to pull the plug on the new tunnel, but Christie told CBS 2 on Wednesday that he has made no decision, and that he put a halt on the project because no one can tell him how much it would cost.
“The only thing they could tell me for sure was whatever it ran over $8.7 billion, the only people on the hook for that money were the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey,” he said.
The governor said his decision came after an audit that found the project was rushed to start, with a total cost of $8 billion. The federal government has committed $3 billion.
Transportation officials say the ARC, short for Access to the Region’s Core, would allow New Jersey Transit to run more than twice as many trains as it does now under the Hudson River.
Commuters are hopeful that the tunnel would make their trip run more smoothly.
“It would be easier for people to have more trains, and the commute would be easier,” one commuter said.
Democrats like Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine, who celebrated at the ARC’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2009, had promised to keep the project running.
Democrat John Wisniewski, chair of the State Assembly’s Transportation Committee, said Christie, a Republican, wants to squash the plan for national political gain.
“What this really is about, is a governor trying to burnish Republican credentials nationwide, by saying to folks in Ohio, and Illinois, and everywhere else he’s traveling, that he was able to fix the transportation trust fund without finding a new source of revenue, without raising the tax,” Wisniewski said.
Christie, however, denies national political ambition.
“I am not running for President of the United States under any circumstances, under any scenario” he said.
Meanwhile, work continues on the first phase of the project. Democrats, like Wisniewski, say a project stoppage could cost the state 6,000 jobs in construction.
“It will totally devastate a lot of workers,” one construction worker said. “There are a lot of workers that are laid off.”
The hope had been to have trains running by 2016, but now the entire project remains in limbo.
Governor Christie said he’s even willing to accept money from New York City to help pay for the project, but that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not offered to do so.
Neither New Jersey Transit nor the Port Authority, which is also funding the project, had comment on Wednesday.