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Feds, New Jersey look for ways to keep tunnel project

By The CNN Wire Staff
This is an artist's rendering of a new New York Penn Station expansion cavern.
This is an artist's rendering of a new New York Penn Station expansion cavern.
  • Gov. Chris Christie meets with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
  • Christie: LaHood presented "options to potentially salvage" the $8.7 billion project
  • Christie killed the project because of cost overruns
  • Analyst says Christie's numbers are overstated and "years down the road" anyway

(CNN) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came out of a meeting in Trenton with the federal government's top transportation official saying he'd been shown several ways to possibly salvage the multibillion-dollar tunnel project he shut down Thursday.

The Access to the Region's Center project -- a tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City, along with an expansion of New York's Penn Station -- would have created 6,000 jobs and taken 22,000 vehicles off the highway. But Christie terminated the project, citing projected cost overruns.

"The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged," Christie said in a statement after his meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "However, this afternoon, Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans-Hudson tunnel project.

"At the secretary's request, I've agreed to have executive director of New Jersey Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks."

Video: New Jersey governor scraps tunnel plans
  • New Jersey

The $8.7 billion tunnel beneath the Hudson River was the largest public works project in the United States, but Christie said it was likely to cost up to $5 billion more than estimated. In a statement announcing his plan to withdraw from the project, he said the tunnel "costs far more than New Jersey taxpayers can afford, and the only prudent move is to end this project."

But Thomas Wright, the head of the Regional Plan Association, said Christie's decision "is really going to take a hit on New Jersey's economic growth." He said the $5 billion estimate for overruns that Christie cited is overstated, with the actual number being closer to $1 billion.

"This is a potential overrun that's many years down the road. It should not have been used as the excuse to kill this project," he said.

The Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration each put up $3 billion for the project, with the state of New Jersey adding in $2.7 billion. Part of the federal portion was to be funded by federal stimulus money.

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