New Jersey now has until Jan. 18 to repay $271 million to the Federal Transit Administration for a canceled commuter-rail tunnel. The previous deadline was Monday.

New Jersey Transit requested an extension through its lawyers. The FTA responded with the new deadline, according to an FTA spokesperson.

Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, declined to explain why the mass-transit agency asked for the extension, but wrote in an e-mail that “such a request is not unusual.”

Christie, a Republican, believes the FTA’s repayment claim does not follow previous federal policy. NJTransit, which oversees the now-terminated project, last month hired Patton Boggs LLP to contest the $271 million repayment. The agency will pay Patton Boggs $485 per hour.

The FTA has agreed to lower the repayment to $143 million. In a Dec. 14 letter to Democratic U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wrote that if NJTransit repays the $271 million, the U.S. Department of Transportation would direct $128 million for future air quality projects in New Jersey, leaving a net payment of $143 million.

Christie ended construction on the $8.7 billion passenger-rail tunnel, called the Access to the Region’s Core, in late October. It was the largest mass-transit project in the nation at the time and would have run under the Hudson River, connecting New Jersey and Manhattan.

Christie terminated the project because he said New Jersey would have had to take on any cost overruns to complete it, which the FTA estimated to be $1.1 billion to $4 billion.

Work on the tunnel began under his Democratic predecessor, Jon Corzine.

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