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Source: NJ governor set to stop train tunnel project

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Gov. Chris Christie denies decision is made on tunnel
  • Governor is concerned about overruns on the $8.7 billion project
  • Governor: "New Jersey's broke"
  • Proponents say overruns could be paid for by a ticket surcharge

(CNN) -- The nation's largest infrastructure project may be about to head off the rails as New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie prepares to pull the plug on a multibillion-dollar train tunnel beneath the Hudson River, a source close to the project told CNN Tuesday.

Christie ordered a 30-day halt to all work on the Access to the Region's Core on September 10, amid concerns that the $8.7 billion public transportation project might run over budget by as much as a several billion dollars. The Republican governor ordered a review of the project because his state would have to commit to covering any cost overruns.

The source told CNN the governor is expected to announce that he is halting the project indefinitely.

Christie, however -- speaking to CNN affiliate WGN at a campaign event for Bill Brady's Illinois gubernatorial campaign -- denied he had made that decision.

"There is only one source on what is going to be happening in New Jersey, and you are looking at him," Christie said. "I have not made any decision. I have not been given the information yet by my executive director of New Jersey Transit, my commissioner of transportation about what the real cost of the ARC tunnel going from New Jersey to New York is going to be. And until I get those real costs, I can't make a decision."

Christie said he ordered the review and report on the project when he learned of the "potential for significant cost overruns."

"And New Jersey's broke," he said.

But the 30-day halt ends this week, and Christie said he would be reviewing the information from transportation officials and making the decision once he returns to New Jersey.

The tunnel beneath the Hudson River and planned expansion of Penn Station in New York would double the number of commuter trains carrying passenger between New Jersey and New York. Amtrak would also be able to run more trains on the Northeast Corridor.

According to New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the project would create 6,000 jobs and take 22,000 cars off the road. Some of the federal funds dedicated to the project were stimulus dollars.

Proponents of the project proposed covering any budget shortfalls with a surcharge on train tickets or an increase in New Jersey's gasoline tax. While New Jersey has the third lowest tax on gasoline in the nation, Christie has said he's opposed to increasing the tax on gasoline.

Christie is also faced with a state Transportation Trust Fund that is quickly running out of money. Opponents of the project would like to see the $2.7 billion that New Jersey has committed to the tunnel project used to replenish the transportation fund, which pays for maintenance and improvements on New Jersey's roads and bridges.

The Federal Transit Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state transportation agency, each committed $3 billion to the rail tunnel. If Christie kills the project, the federal government would redirect its funds elsewhere, and the $600 million already spent on the project would not be reimbursed.

The Port Authority referred CNN to New Jersey Transit, the lead agency on the project, for comment, but New Jersey Transit has not yet responded. Attempts to reach the Federal Transportation Authority, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Christie directly were also unsuccessful.