Dammit!! I really want this to happen but the Governor is right about the money. Who on God’s green earth is going to help us pay for this??? Twice now, Governor Christie has decided to scrap a new rail tunnel project know as ARC. Although he did not contend that it was unnecessary or a bad plan, the reason for the smackdown was because the state simply could not afford it. The decision is likely to earn Christie some points with New Jerseyans.
The new proposed tunnel to Manhattan from NJ was intially estimated at an $8.7 billion dollar project. The federal government was going to contribute $3 billion, Port Authority of New York was going to propose $3 billion, and NJ was left with the balance of $2.7 billion or whatever that balance turned out to be. Once analysts put the cost estimate at about $12 billion minimum, the $8.7 billion initial proposal was thrown away. In the budget deficit that NJ is in, why would we pay so much? What about New York City and New York State? Where are their contributions?? Last I checked, they would be benefitting greatly from ARC as well.
Originally, when Christie balked, Ray LaHood, the head of the Federal Transportation Dept. offered $358 million in federal aid. Really? That’s like saying I’ll make a $200 contribution to the purchase of your new Cadillac Escalade.
A couple of cost savings proposals were discussed which are interesting. How about increasing the state motor fuel taxes, which for years has been 14.5 cents per gallon, the third lowest rate in the country. Ever wonder why NJ gas is so cheap to other areas? This is why. How about slightly increasing the tax by 10 cents. This would produce more than $500 million a year. So those of you with a Nissan Altima, your gas tank would need another $1.50 or so every time you fill. Consider that your contribution to making public transportation more efficient! Those of you in an Escalade, it would increase your gas tab by about $2.50. If you are driving an Escalade, you can afford it.
Another thing that ARC will help is real estate values. Real estate values are expected to go up over $30,000 if you are within 1 mile of a station and about $20,000 if you live within 2 miles from a station in NJ. Property values go up and so do property taxes.
If the motor fuel tax rate was increased from 14.5 cents to 24.5 cents, we would still have lower gas prices than New York by 20 cents and Pennsylvania by 8 cents, keeping NJ competetive with our neighbors.
Is the ARC necessary? Have you ridden rush our rail from NJ to NY and vice versa? You know you are subject to delays, over-crowding, etc. Ridership has more than quadrupled over the last 20 years, rising from 10 million annual trips to 46 million. In the next 20 years, ridership is expected to double again. So if you think NJ Transit sucks now, wait another 5-10 years when you will really start noticing. I don’t want to be riding the system in 20 years if it doubles and no new plans are launched to mitigate the ridership.
The ARC project would make the Main, Bergen, Pascack Valley, and Port Jervis line a one-seat ride to Manhattan. No more connections in Secaucus or Hoboken.
So eventually the ARC has to happen. Question is, who will pay for it. We need neighboring NY to step up and clear some cap space so they can make this happen in a joint effort to not only make public transportation safer and more efficient, but also will take thousands of cars off of the roads, something Al Gore would LOVE! Buck up New York. Time for some teamwork. I suppost Christie’s stance on his decision for now until alternative financial decisions are made.