Gov. Christie tries to use Port Authority funds for NJ… again

| November 10, 2014

This past week brought news of multiple transportation developments in New Jersey — some being squashed, others being floated. The first, as New York Yimby reports, is a plan to extend the PATH rapid transit network from New York’s Penn Station to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport that may be canceled. The second, as reported by The Star-Ledger, was the announcement that the construction of new Amtrak tunnels and other related projects connecting to New York would cost around $16 billion, and require up to 10 years of work.

path trains

Even Nucky Thompson didn’t have Chris Christie’s dedication when it comes to swindling gullible New Yorkers out of their money. From Squirrel83.

First up: The airport connection. The Wall Street Journal first raised the point that the Port Authority’s push to extend the PATH from Penn Station to the Newark airport was “part of a quid-pro-quo deal between Governor Chris Christie’s administration and United Airlines,” explains Yimby. (PATH stands for Port Authority Trans-Hudson. It’s a rapid transit network that’s run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

Why the connection? Apparently Christie wanted to continue to try to revive Atlantic City — seemingly a failed project, but that’s a story for another post — by offering United Airlines a new PATH route to Newark Liberty International Airport in exchange for United flying into Atlantic City’s local airport.

A recent Wall Street Journal report confirms that the new PATH route and the Atlantic City connection were related promises; now that United has stopped offering Atlantic City-bound flights, the PATH extension — a $1.5 billion project that hasn’t proven its value — may also be nixed. Reports the Journal, “United Airlines will halt its service to Atlantic City International Airport in December, pulling the plug on a seven-month experiment that surrogates of Gov. Chris Christie helped negotiate as part of the administration’s effort to revive that city’s sagging fortunes.”

The value of the project was highly questionable: “With the North River Tunnels – the only conduit for NJ Transit and Amtrak trains between New York and New Jersey – in dire straits, and no funding plan for a new pair of tubes, spending a 10-digit sum of money on a redundant connection to Newark’s airport would have been unconscionable,” explains Yimby. Besides, New Jersey Transit could also address the gap by running additional trains between Penn Station and the Newark airport, if needed.

Then there’s the hyper-expensive — but necessary — new Amtrak work. Last month, Amtrak announced that tunnels currently were in use were damaged by Hurricane Sandy flooding; constructing new tunnels would mean that one of the old tunnels could undergo repairs for a year without impacting service. The Star-Ledger reports that Amtrak officials “are in a race against time,” trying not to close existing 100-year-old tunnels for repairs before new tunnels can be constructed.

Currently, approximately 400 commuter trains run daily. If one of these old tunnels had to be closed, trains would drop from an average of 24 trains hourly to six trains per hourly. In this shutdown scenario, the area’s economy stands to lose $100 million daily, according to Amtrak president Joseph Boardman.

The work wouldn’t happen overnight, either. “It could be done in seven years if we put some incentives on it,” Boardman told The Star-Ledger. “We’re looking at a minimum of seven years to 11 years. That’s from the time we get a go-ahead.” The project in question, the Gateway Project, would be funded by between 50 to 80% by the government, with the rest of the expenses split between Amtrak, New Jersey, and New York. The next step? Amtrak will accept companies’ proposals to run an environmental review this coming spring.

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Category: Infrastructure, Transportation

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