In a speech yesterday, Chris Christie declared that he’s ready to invest in mass-transit between New York and New Jersey. His current transportation approach, however, stresses roads over transit.
According to the Associated Press, Christie praised both the Gateway Project and the 7-Train Extension. But he offered one principal stipulation on any future project – NJ will not go it alone. Christie remarked:
“We have a better project [Gateway] that I know at some point someone will come to us and ask us to contribute to, and we will stand ready to do that,” Christie said. “But we will do that as partners with the federal government and Amtrak, and we will do that, I am certain, only under the condition that New York City and state contribute as well.”
Indeed, Christie continues to stress that leaders in NY care more about the tunnel than leaders in NJ. According to the Star Ledger, Christie repeated is claim that after canceling the tunnel, “the only phone calls he got in protest were from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. David Paterson and Manhattan real estate developers.”
Despite his support, Christie’s current approach to transportation funding continues to favor investment in automobile infrastructure.
First, in his speech, Christie also lashed out at state democrats who voted last week to cancel planned toll increases approved in 2008 to fund the ARC Tunnel. Tolls went up in 2008 and were planned to increase again in 2012. Christie’s plan is to direct the toll revenues to the Pulaski Bridge and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge.
While these projects are critical in their own right, Christie is questioning the very idea that highway tolls can support transit. According to Mike Frassinelli’s for the Star Ledger, “Christie said the Democrats had no problem using Turnpike toll money to go toward a train tunnel, but all of a sudden have a problem because the money is being used for roads and bridges — which he said is a better fit.” Christie’s logic that road projects are a “better fit” for toll funds is both flawed and out-dated, particularly since road users benefit from transit projects that take other cars off the road.
Second, Christie reiterated his refusal to raise the gas tax. At just 10.5 cents per gallon, NJ’s gas tax is the third-lowest in the nation and the lowest in the tri-state area by far – Connecticut and New York charge 25¢ and 24.35¢ per gallon respectively. Democrats have argued that even a small increase in the tax could help fund both road and transit projects.
Christie’s vocal support of mass-transit but his lack of action bears a resemblance to the rhetoric he displayed in the Gubernatorial election in 2009. His cancelation of the ARC project, for example, came as a surprise after he repeatedly expressed his support of the project as a candidate. What is clear, however, is that Christie will not push a trans-Hudson rail tunnel on his own. The political will must come from NY, NJ and the federal government.