Over at Second Avenue Sagas, Ben Kabak marks Gateway’s political impact for Chris Christie. Indeed, it seems that Christie’s cancellation of ARC is earning him double points. First, since October, polls have indicated that the majority of New Jerseyans supported pulling the plug on ARC. Now, as Kabak reports, Christie is claiming victory for pushing the federal government to do more — and it will be difficult to wrest that victory from his hands.
Since September, Christie has in some ways manipulated the narrative regarding ARC. As Gothamist reported in November, Christe consistently repeated the false claim that the ARC tunnel did not directly connect with the Subway (provided to him, apparently, by his wife Mary Pat). The mis-information stuck in the media, and now reports from NJ.com and others are reporting that Gateway addresses Christie’s concerns about connectivity.
In reality, Gateway is not so much a response to ARC’s shortcomings as it is Amtrak seizing the opportunity to dramatically accelerate its existing plans for trans-hudson capacity (which ARC would not have provided to the national railroad). In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Amtrak has been working on the Gateway proposal for several years. The new tunnel is part of its 40-year HSR plan for the Northeast Corridor, which was announced back in September.
Despite claiming credit for Gateway, Christie is now joining a chorus of Republicans who are rejecting the very program that could get Gateway in the ground. Yesterday, House Republicans signaled their proposed cuts to federal spending, including removing $1B in HSR funding and $224M of Amtrak operating subsidies, as part of $35B in cuts. Today, after receiving an award in Philadelphia, Christie agreed, calling HSR “candy stuff,” when the Administration should be focusing on bigger issues.
This “candy,” however, could be considerable nutrition for the Gateway project. Still, there may be at least one or two years before federal funding for Gateway has to be identified. This delay, of course, will only benefit Christie’s image campaign as both classic conservative and pro-Gateway. As Yonah Freemark reported yesterday, the Democrats are staking major political capital on their transportation proposal. But with no urgency to fund Gateway just yet, Christie won’t need to compromise his conservative image for the sake of federal funds until after the current debate about HSR has moved on.