Future of Hudson tunnel project in limbo

October 6, 2010 2:53:29 PM PDT
Work on the tunnel beneath Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen presses forward, but no new construction begins on the New Jersey side unless or until Governor Christie says so.

An artist concept from the tunnel project's website shows the new line that would double the number of trains between New York and New Jersey, and new stations.

The Port Authority and the Federal Transportation Authority are chipping in 3 billion dollars. New Jersey's share is 2.7-billion. That's on the state's table along with a projected 10.5 billion dollar budget deficit next year.

Christie put a temporary halt on the New Jersey arm of the 8.7 billion dollar tunnel project last month after the federal government projected cost over-runs of about a billion dollars.

At issue is deeper money woes facing New Jersey transportation projects. On Tuesday, officials said they have indefinitely suspended about 100 state-funded road and rail projects that are in their early stages as the cash-strapped state grapples with how to pay for needed infrastructure improvements over the long haul.

The announcement came a day after work resumed on hundreds of transportation, transit and local aid projects that Gov. Chris Christie's transportation commissioner had ordered stopped because he said the fund dedicated to pay for the work had become dangerously low. Most of the projects resumed after lawmakers approved a $1.25 billion bond sale to keep the work funded through spring.

Democrats who control the Legislature's Joint Budget Oversight Committee approved the bond sale reluctantly, saying they did not want to idle construction workers.

Committee members had refused to act on the request for temporary funding until the Christie administration presents a long-term plan for funding infrastructure improvements.

NJTransit head James Weinstein acknowledged under recent public questioning that the administration has discussed diverting money earmarked for a new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River into Manhattan to fund state transportation improvements.

The money mess is apparently fraying nerves at New Jersey Transit, which says the new tunnel will cure many commuter headaches like delays and overcrowding. We asked NJ Transit to respond to Christie's statements, but they had no comment today.

A decision on the tunnel could come at the end of this week or next week.

Some information from The Associated Press