Chris Christie Killed Tunnel Deal With Exaggerations, Report Finds

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Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/2011 Getty Images

In 2010, Governor Chris Christie canceled plans for a new tunnel between New Jersey and New York, claiming the project would "cost no less than $11 billion and could exceed $14 billion," and arguing that taxpayers would be on "a never-ending hook" to pay for it. His critics said that the position was transparently political and shortsighted: Christie wanted to be seen as an exemplary debt-hating Republican, and he certainly didn't want to break a campaign promise by raising New Jersey's gas tax, the second lowest in the country, to offset costs. But to make his point, according to a new congressional report, Christie stretched the truth. 

The New York Times reports today that Christie "exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel" the plan, known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

Christie's spokesman says now that the governor "was prudent to cancel the project, given the vast disagreement between professionals" about costs, and insists it was "a very, very bad deal for New Jersey."

Meanwhile, the Amtrak and NJ Transit tunnels under the Hudson are more than 100 years old, not to mention exceptionally full, and mass-transit traffic between the two states is expected to go up almost 40 percent in the next two decades. No reasonable alternatives to the tunnel are in motion, and Christie has taken $4 billion in earmarks meant for the ARC and put it to New Jersey's struggling transportation trust, which is usually funded by the gas tax.