Gov. Christie Vastly Exaggerated Costs To Justify Scuttling Important Infrastructure Project

In late 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) scuttled a proposed tunnel beneath the Hudson River, saying that the desperately needed infrastructure project would be too expensive for New Jersey. “It’s a dollars and cents issue,” Christie said at the time, claiming that New Jersey would have to pay a disproportionate amount of the project’s costs.

However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that Christie vastly exaggerated how much of the project would be paid for by New Jersey:

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

After canceling the project, Christie steered money earmarked for the tunnel into the Garden State’s transportation trust fund, rather than fixing the fund’s obviously broken revenue stream (which might have included raising the gasoline tax). “[The tunnel] was critical to the future of New Jersey’s economy and it took years to plan, but Gov. Christie wiped it out with a campaign of public deception,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in a statement. “The future of New Jersey’s commuters was sacrificed for the short term political needs of the Governor.”

At the moment, both Amtrak and New Jersey transit trains share a pair of 100 year old tracks under the Hudson River, which are operating at capacity. Demand for mass transit between New York and New Jersey is expected to increase by nearly 40 percent by 2030. But instead of financing this important project, Christie used it for his political advantage, and then turned around to throw money at a boondoggle of a mall project.