TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Chris Christie cited New Jersey’s lack of money yesterday as he stood by his decision to kill a train tunnel connecting his state to New York City, a move that will force the state to repay up to $350 million of the money it was given to start the nation’s biggest public works project.
Christie, a rising star in the Republican Party for his fearless budget-slashing, has argued that his cash-strapped state cannot afford to pay for any overruns on the $9 billion-plus rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The state is on the hook for $2.7 billion plus overruns.
“In the end, my decision does not change,’’ Christie said. “I cannot place upon the citizens of New Jersey an open-ended letter of credit, and that’s what this project represents.’’
The federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were each set to contribute $3 billion to the project, dubbed ARC for “Access to the Region’s Core.’’
Now, New Jersey is likely to have to repay the federal government $350 million of the $600 million already spent getting the project started. It is also likely New York City will make a bid for the $3 billion in committed Port Authority funds to help complete the city’s Second Avenue subway and rail access to Grand Central Station from Long Island.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the decision “a devastating blow’’ to New Jersey commuters, construction workers and engineers, and the state’s economy.
“The governor’s decision to stop work on this project means commuters — who would have saved 45 minutes each day thanks to the ARC tunnel — will instead see no end to traffic congestion and ever-longer wait times on train platforms,’’ LaHood said.