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Backed by billions of dollars from federal and state sources, the canceled Hudson River rail tunnel project had been praised by supporters for its potential to ease congestion and create thousands of jobs.
But had the project exceeded its estimated budget, New Jersey alone would have had to cover the additional bills, state Sen. Jennifer Beck says.
About 18 months after Gov. Chris Christie terminated the Access to the Region’s Core project — better known as the ARC project — the proposal returned to the headlines last week with the release of an report on the project’s history.
In an April 11 interview on NJToday, Beck (R-Monmouth) pointed out how federal officials estimated the cost of the project, which would have linked Secaucus to a new rail station deep under West 34th Street in Manhattan, could climb to between $10 billion and $13 billion.
"The project was originally estimated to be $8.7 billion, and New Jersey alone was on the hook for all overruns," she said.
PolitiFact New Jersey discovered Beck is right. Based on a federal rule for such projects, New Jersey would have been responsible for cost increases beyond the $8.7 billion budget, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said.
Beck said it didn’t seem equitable that New York officials wouldn’t contribute anything.
"It didn’t make sense," Beck told us. "It really is a regional project."
Let’s review some of the history behind the ARC project.
With NJ Transit as the lead agency, New Jersey was to contribute $2.7 billion toward the $8.7 billion project cost. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was to contribute $3 billion, with the remaining $3 billion coming from a federal transit program.
But in their latest estimate before the project was canceled, federal officials said the cost could increase to between about $9.8 billion and roughly $12.4 billion.
After Christie first announced plans to cancel the project, federal officials presented a few options to fund the remaining costs, including federal loans and a public-private partnership to secure additional funding.
But on Oct. 27, 2010, Christie went ahead with terminating what was the largest planned public works project in the nation, citing potential cost increases and the state’s fiscal climate.
Due to the project’s cancellation, there was no final agreement on the responsibility for cost growth, according to a recent investigative report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Still, New Jersey would have been responsible for cost increases beyond the $8.7 billion, DOT spokesman Justin Nisly told us. Nisly said in an e-mail that "it is important to note that we were actively working with NJ Transit to mitigate any potential costs when they decided to walk away from the project."
According to Nisly, the basis for that responsibility is a 2006 federal rule that includes the following phrase: "Once the project is approved into final design, any increase in project costs will be borne by the sponsoring agency and its non-section 5309 New Starts funding partners."
That rule goes on to say that "any cost increase later in project development is the sole responsibility of the project sponsor."
In an April 11 interview on NJToday, Beck claimed that beyond the $8.7 billion budget for the ARC project, "New Jersey alone was on the hook for all overruns."
Based on a federal rule governing such projects, the senator’s claim is accurate. As a DOT spokesman confirmed, New Jersey would have been responsible for cost increases beyond the $8.7 billion budget.
We rate the statement True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
NJToday, Interview with state Sen. Jennifer Beck, April 11, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Congressional investigators question why Gov. Christie canceled Hudson River rail tunnel, April 11, 2012
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Commuter Rail: Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project, March 2012
The Star-Ledger, N.J. Gov. Christie to cancel Hudson River tunnel, blaming feds' refusal to increase funding, Oct. 27, 2010
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey's Hudson River tunnel project, April 10, 2011
U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Additional $765 Million to Continue and Expand Work on Access to the Region’s Core Project, April 14, 2010
Associated Press, Christie sticks with decision to scrap tunnel, Oct. 27, 2010
Federal Transit Administration, Annual Report on Funding Recommendations: Fiscal Year 2010, accessed April 13, 2012
Federal Transit Administration, Annual Report on Funding Recommendations: Fiscal Year 2011, ARC Tunnel Project Profile, accessed April 13, 2012
NJ Transit, 2011 Annual Report, accessed April 13, 2012
NJ Transit, Governor Announcement Regarding ARC Tunnel Project, Oct. 8, 2010
New Jersey Transit Corporation’s Opposition To The Federal Transit Administration’s November 24, 2010 Repayment Demand, Jan. 25, 2011
Letter from Federal Transit Administration to NJ Transit demanding repayment of funds, Nov. 24, 2010
Final Decision of the Federal Transit Administration: Debt Collection Action, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Access to the Region’s Core Project, April 29, 2011
Federal Transit Administration, 2006 Final Guidance on New Starts Policies and Procedures, May 16, 2006
MSNBC, Transcript of The Ed Show, April 10, 2012
E-mail interview with Justin Nisly, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, April 13-18, 2012
Interview with state Sen. Jennifer Beck, April 18, 2012
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