New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are in preliminary discussions to improve passenger rail service between New Jersey and Manhattan following New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s termination of a $9.4 billion commuter-rail tunnel that was the nation’s largest public transportation project.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole confirmed that the national rail system has been talking with NJTransit since Christie ended the tunnel project — called the Access to the Region’s Core — saying the state could not afford it. Those talks range from resurrecting the ARC tunnel project to finding alternative ways to enhance or expand rail service between the Garden State and Manhattan, according to Cole.
“The governor has asked us to look into working with NJTransit to see if there’s anything we can do to revive it,” Cole said in a telephone interview. “So from that standpoint, we have been asked to come into the process to see what we can do to work with NJTransit to see if there is a way to do that and, at the same time, look and see if there are other opportunities that we can work with NJTransit on as well.”
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak stressed that the ARC tunnel is dead, but added that the state is reviewing transportation issues through the Hudson river.
“To repeat yet again, the ARC tunnel project is over,” Drewniak said in a statement. “While no new conversations have taken place between Amtrak and NJTransit, the governor previously asked both [state] Department of Transportation commissioner James Simpson and NJTransit executive director James Weinstein to work with the pertinent partners to explore fiscally viable alternatives for a trans-Hudson tunnel. As such, we will continue to explore solutions to the trans-Hudson transportation challenge.”
NJTransit and Amtrak share a single, two-track tunnel that runs under the Hudson River and connects New Jersey with Manhattan. The ARC tunnel would have doubled NJTransit’s capacity under the river and allowed for 48 trains at peak rush hour, compared with the current 23. It would also have created 6,000 construction jobs and increased property values in the area.
The $9.4 billion project estimate included $775 million New Jersey would need to spend to build the Portal Bridge South, a part of the tunnel development. The state committed $2.7 billion towards the mass-transit tunnel. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the federal government pledged $3 billion each.