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Christie Hires Law Firm to Challenge U.S. Tunnel Bill

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hired Washington-based law firm Patton Boggs LLC to contest a $271 million bill for money the U.S. government spent on a commuter-rail tunnel he canceled.

Patton Boggs will argue the state’s case that the federal charge is selective enforcement and that other jurisdictions have canceled transportation projects without being forced to repay expended funds, Christie’s office said today in a statement. No decision has been made on whether to sue the agency, according to Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman.

The Federal Transit Administration told New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein the state had until Dec. 24 to repay the money. Christie, a first-term Republican, killed the $8.7 billion Hudson River tunnel Oct. 27, saying the state couldn’t afford $5 billion in potential extra expenses.

“New Jersey and its taxpayers should not be responsible for these costs, which is why our administration is making every effort to fight the FTA’s unreasonable demands,’” Christie, 48, said in the statement. “I simply cannot allow our state to be taken advantage of any further over this highly flawed project.”

The tunnel funds came from a combination of federal programs under which New Jersey would have received the money for other uses, Christie said. The completed work has “ongoing value” for future regional transportation projects, he said.

Potential Strategies

Stuart Pape, the managing partner of Patton Boggs, said it’s too early to discuss potential strategies for the challenge.

“We’re going to be working with the New Jersey Transit folks to get our arms around the facts,” Pape, 61, a native of Fort Lee, New Jersey, said by telephone from his office in Washington.

The firm was chosen after a “rigorous competitive process,” Christie said in the statement.

New Jersey’s Law and Public Safety Department reviewed “multiple firms” based on cost and their merits before selecting Patton Boggs, Drewniak said by e-mail. The firm will be paid $485 an hour to mount the challenge, he said.

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