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Christie Won’t Announce Train Tunnel Decision Today

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won’t say today whether he will cancel the construction of a commuter-rail tunnel under the Hudson River to New York, his spokesman said.

The governor halted the project Oct. 7, saying the initial $8.7 billion cost might have reached $14 billion and the state couldn’t afford it. Christie, a first-term Republican, then agreed to delay a final decision two weeks at U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s request.

“We do not anticipate making an announcement today,” Michael Drewniak, Christie’s press secretary, said in an interview at the Statehouse in Trenton. “The governor expects to receive all information from people on his working group. He’s probably going to be working on this through the weekend.”

A decision may come next week, Drewniak said.

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, speaking to reporters at Newark’s Penn Station, said federal officials told him that the true tunnel cost estimate is $9.7 billion, about $4 billion below the high end of Christie’s projection. Lautenberg said the governor “fabricated” his estimates.

Drewniak declined to comment on Lautenberg’s remarks.

Expensive Hole

Federal Transit Administration staffers estimated the project would cost between $10.9 billion and $13.7 billion, according to an Oct. 7 memo to Christie from the tunnel’s executive steering committee, which includes officials from the state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and New Jersey Transit.

Democrats, who control the state Legislature and New Jersey’s two U.S. Senate seats, have said canceling the tunnel project would be one of the worst decisions a governor has ever made.

The 8.8-mile (14.2-kilometer) conduit was meant to double the number of commuter trains to New York during peak times. It would reduce round-trip commutes by as much as 30 minutes, and boost the value of homes near transit stations by $18 billion, according to the Regional Plan Association, a New York-based transit-advocacy group.

Under the original plan, the federal government and Port Authority each were to pay $3 billion for the work, and the state $2.7 billion. Christie said state taxpayers would be “on the hook” for anything more.

‘Stop Fiddling’

Lautenberg said the latest federal estimate includes $1 billion for overruns on the project known as Access to the Region’s Core.

“We now have a real figure of what the cost of the ARC tunnel will be that includes overruns,” he said. “We’ve got to get on with this because right now we are losing momentum.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan today called on Christie to restart the project at once.

“People have been needlessly shoved onto the unemployment line the last two weeks thanks to Governor Christie,” Cryan, a Union Democrat, said in a statement. “Governor Christie needs to stop fiddling and get this project moving again for the benefit of New Jersey.”

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