Christie to weigh tunnel decision through weekend

AP News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2010 12:45 PM
Christie to weigh tunnel decision through weekend

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will take at least the weekend to decide whether to continue the biggest public works project under way in America: a new rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City.

The governor will receive recommendations from key federal and state transportation officials Friday and consider them through the weekend, Christie communications director Maria Comella told The Associated Press. Christie may also consult with others before making a decision.

The tunnel is designed to supplement a century-old two-track tunnel and would double train capacity between New York and its populous New Jersey suburbs. It also would provide 6,000 construction jobs immediately and up to 40,000 jobs after its completion in 2018, officials estimate. Construction began last year.

Christie halted work on the project six weeks ago while transportation officials reviewed its costs, and earlier this month he scrapped the project, saying New Jersey is broke and can't afford the cost overruns. But, he agreed to give it a two-week reprieve after meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Oct. 8. The two weeks ends Friday.

LaHood said earlier this week that he would present options for keeping the tunnel project on track to Christie on Friday. No meetings between Christie and LaHood have been scheduled.

Christie had no public schedule on Friday, but planned to be in South Jersey campaigning for Republican congressional candidate Jon Runyan in the afternoon.

Three government officials have told The Associated Press the estimated cost of the tunnel is $9.77 billion, or $4 billion less than the worst-case estimate Christie cited when he killed the project. The officials have direct knowledge of the tunnel but are not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Christie said the project was running $2 billion to $5 billion over budget, but the cost estimate provided by the officials is only about $1 billion over budget.

The project is on target financially so far.

The federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are each contributing $3 billion. New Jersey's share is $2.7 billion plus overruns.

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Associated Press Writer Joan Lowy in Washington contributed to this report.