Coalition Objects to Potentially High Legal Bill for NJT

The NJT Board of Directors has approved the hiring of the Washington lobbying and law firm of Patton Boggs, LLC, to defend the agency against a claim by the Federal Transit Administration for $271 million.  The FTA wants NJT to reimburse that sum because of the cancellation of the ARC Project in October.  Patton Boggs charges $475.00 per hour for attorney work, and there is no cap on the fees that NJT has committed to pay the firm.
The Lackawanna Coalition objected to the hire, saying that there are qualified attorneys in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office who can defend against the FTA’s claim.  These attorneys are already on State salary, so using their services would save the cost of going to an expensive outside firm.

Columnist Criticizes Lautenberg for Continuing to Defend Deep-Cavern Proposal

Partisan politics appears to be heating up over the issue of the ARC Project with New Jersey Transit’s proposed deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street in Manhattan, which Gov. Christie has said will not be built.

Asbury Park Press columnist Bob Ingle criticized Senator Frank Lautenberg for continuing to defend the proposal to build a deep-cavern terminal far below 34th Street in Manhattan as part of the ARC Project.  NJT had proposed new tunnels into Manhattan that would not go to the existing Penn Station, but now acknowledges that the cost of a new deep-cavern terminal will be billions of dollars more than previously stated.

Ingle said: “U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is missing a chance to demonstrate his worth in Washington and become a hero back home but instead he keeps pushing the same old plan.”  Lautenberg held a press conference at Penn Station in Newark to defend the plan but, according to Ingle, he merely “sounded old themes.”

Ingle quoted Gov. Chris Christie as reacting to Lautenberg’s conference by saying: “Senator Lautenberg can do what senators do, which is talk. . . .  What governors are supposed to do is decide.  If it’s going to cost New Jerseyans 2 to 5 billion more than what it’s projected to cost now, it’s not going to happen.”

Ingle also called on Lautenberg to help promote a new tunnel that Amtrak could use, rather than the deep-cavern proposal that Christie rejected.

The Lackawanna Coalition and allied rider advocates have consistently called for new tunnels to go to the existing Penn Station, so Amtrak and NJT can both use them, noting that such a plan will deliver better performance, while saving billions of dollars.

Ingle’s column was formerly to be found on the paper’s web site, http://www.app.com/article/20101017/OPINION0503/10170329/1093/Lautenberg-should-get-behind-a-plan-that-makes-sense.

“Times” Letter Explains Need to Delay ARC

James P. RePass, chairman of The National Corridors Initiative, in a letter published in The New York Times on October 15, explained some reasons why the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel needs to be postponed, pending redesign.  In response to a Times Op-Ed column on Oct. 8 by Paul Krugman, which decried NJ Gov. Christie’s decision to kill the tunnel (since under reconsideration), DePass said that Krugman had not considered “key facts” about the tunnel project.  Writing from Mystic, Conn., DePass wrote first that the cost of the tunnel is considerably more than the original $8.7 billion estimate, “largely because of a parochial decision by New Jersey Transit to abandon the original Penn Station through-running alignment in favor of one that dead-ends in a deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street, usable only by New Jersey Transit.”  He goes on to state that, “Second, the dead-end tunnel cuts out all of New England and Eastern Canada from essential rail capacity growth; the less expensive Penn Station alignment allows for it, and also allows a future connection to Grand Central Terminal that would take hundreds of thousands of subway riders off overcrowded lines in Midtown.”  The letter concludes that Gov. Christie was right to kill “this vastly over-budget, dead-end tunnel”.  Tunnels are needed, but “we must do it right, so that both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak can use them, and so all of New England and Eastern Canada can benefit, not just New Jersey”.

Coalition Statement on Killing of ARC

We agree with Gov. Christie and his administration that the ARC project as proposed was too expensive, and it was flawed.  It did not allow connectivity at Penn Station, and it could not be extended to the East Side.  The organizations representing New Jesey’s rail riders raised these issues, and we were heard and believed.
New Jersey must save money, but putting it toward more highways is not the answer.  The answer is to upgrade Penn Station and build new tunnels to go there, under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative.  That would save money, give riders a better station in Manhattan, and allow expansion to the East Side in the future.
We know that Commissioner Simpson is aware of the transit needs of the entire region, and we hope he can help New Jersey become part of the means for meeting those needs.
DAVID PETER ALAN
Chair, Lackawanna Coalition