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NJ Must Pay $271M For Canceling Tunnel

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Artist rendering of trans-Hudson tunnel platform extension at Penn Station. (Credit: NJ Transit & Port Authority)

Artist rendering of trans-Hudson tunnel platform extension at Penn Station. (Credit: NJ Transit & Port Authority)

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey owes the federal government more than $271 million after canceling a rail tunnel connecting the state with New York, according to a debt notice obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The letter from the Federal Transit Administration’s chief financial officer to NJ Transit’s executive director demands payment of $271,101,291 by Dec. 24.

It’s money the government wants New Jersey to repay for work done on the Hudson River tunnel before Republican Gov. Chris Christie terminated the project. The notification follows a warning letter earlier this month estimating the charges.

“FTA demands payment in full within 30 days from the date of this letter, hereinafter referred to as the ‘delinquency date,”’ the letter states. The letter was dated Nov. 24.

NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein said earlier this month that the state hadn’t determined if it would have to pay any money back.

NJ Transit has the right to request a review of the charges and to dispute all or part of the debt.

Christie’s office did not return a message for comment.

The $8.7 billion project to construct a second rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York – known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC – was 15 years in the making when Christie pulled the plug Oct. 27, citing potential cost overruns. More than $600 million had been spent for engineering, construction and environmental studies.

Christie has since said he would consider contributing to a cheaper alternative: extending New York’s No. 7 subway line under the Hudson River to New Jersey.

John Wisniewski, who chairs the state Democratic State Committee and heads the Transportation Committee in the state Assembly, questioned Christie’s financial acumen.

“We now know that his looking out for our financial interests will cost New Jersey taxpayers at least $271 million,” he said. “To make matters worse, the governor has now pledged New Jersey money to help finance New York’s subway expansion – without even seeing a plan or a cost estimate. It doesn’t seem like he’s being much of a financial watchdog, only a theatrical bulldog.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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