Christie: 'Complete baloney' that Hudson tunnel project he killed would be nearly done

Gov. Christie speaking with reporters near the future site of Stockton University's Atlantic City campus on the Boardwalk, after the groundbreaking on April 20, 2017.

ATLANTIC CITY -- Despite the recent transit chaos in Penn Station and North Jersey, and the uncertain federal funding of the planned Gateway Hudson River rail tunnels, Gov. Christie said he did not make a mistake killing a similar project in 2010.

"No regrets," he said. "The project stunk."

He said it was "complete baloney" that the aborted $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core (ARC), which would have connected North Jersey to Manhattan via a tunnel to 34th Street, would have been near completion by now.

Christie appeared this week with Sen. Cory A. Booker to urge federal officials to prioritize a rail-tunnel project that could lose funding under President Trump’s budget plan. He did not discuss the earlier project, and Booker dismissed it as "history."

But on Thursday, the governor issued an expansive defense of his actions, even with the uncertain fate of the Gateway project.

"First of all, they wouldn’t be opening," he said of the ARC project. "If you would presume they’d be opening, you’d have to presume they'd be ahead of schedule, which I’ve never seen a federal transportation project ahead of schedule, and you also presume they’d be on budget."

He compared the project to Boston's Big Dig, which ran tens of billions over budget. The federal government had already projected ARC to run $3 billion to $5 billion over budget when Christie pulled the plug.

"I'd like to know from all these people who wanted the ARC tunnel, where’s the $3 to $5 billion in federal DOT projected cost overruns, where is this going to come from?

"Because I could tell you this: I don't have it. And I knew back in 2010, I didn't have it."

Of the idea that the ARC project would be nearing completion now, he said: "This is complete baloney. The fact is the tunnel would not be done now, wouldn’t be near done now. And if it was, we would need $3 to $5 billion at least."

He said New York City and New York state were "contributing zero" to the ARC project, whereas they are splitting half of the rail-tunnel project's $24 billion cost with New Jersey. The federal government and Amtrak are supposed to pay the rest.

Also, he said, as his wife, Mary Pat, as well as others pointed out to him, the design of the ARC project was flawed, terminating at "the basement of Macy's."

He dismissed a reminder of his wife's role in his decision -- she was commuting at the time to a job in Manhattan and thought the Macy's terminus was impractical -- as "snarky, snarky, very snarky."

"Everybody understands this project is better," he said. "This project is going to Penn Station with immediate access to trains to take them all throughout Manhattan and the outer boroughs as well.

"Under this agreement that we have, we’re splitting evenly with New York state, and 50 percent of the cost coming from federal government.

"That is an enormously different project than the ARC project, where the overwhelming amount of money was coming from the State of New Jersey that was budgeted, and every nickel of cost overruns was coming from the State of New Jersey.

"I don’t know where that money would have come from. It would have come from increased taxes or hugely increased fares on New Jersey Transit.

"So I have absolutely no regret over that decision," he said. "Over the course of time, the decision will be proven to be right.

"When the Gateway tunnels open and they see that, they’re going to be glad they had a governor that forced New York state and New York City to pay their fair share of the project. And a project that was actually going to go someplace where they could get someplace else once they arrived, which the ARC project was not going to be able to do for them."