TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Chris Christie pulled the plug on a decades-in-the-making train tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan yesterday, saying that New Jersey can’t afford to pay for cost overruns on the already under-construction project.
More than a half-billion dollars has been spent on the tunnel, and construction began last year. The largest federal transportation project in the country, it was expected to double train traffic in and out of New York City during peak commute times once completed in 2018.
But over the years, the cost for the tunnel also has nearly doubled.
It started at $5 billion in 2005 and grew to $8.7 billion by 2008. In recent months, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff has made public statements that put the price tag between $9 billion and $10 billion. Yesterday, Christie said his advisers put the costs at $11 billion to $14 billion.
“The bottom line is this, New Jersey has gone for too long and for too many decades ordering things that they can’t pay for,’’ Christie said at a news conference.
A month ago, the Republican governor ordered a 30-day halt to all work on the tunnel over concerns that it would go over budget. Yesterday, he directed state transportation officials to explore other approaches to modernize and expand rail capacity into New York.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s spokeswoman indicated the project might not be dead. Olivia Alair said in an e-mailed statement that LaHood and Christie plan to meet this afternoon to “discuss a path forward on the ARC tunnel project.’’
Proponents of the tunnel — dubbed Access to the Region’s Core — assailed the Republican governor’s decision as shortsighted and wrong-headed.