Coalition Calls for Affordable Trans-Hudson Project

Coalition Calls for Affordable Trans-Hudson Project, As Feds Demand “ARC” Money Back from NJT

Just as the Lackawanna Coalition made the case in New England for an affordable project that would bring a new rail tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to improve regional connectivity, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reiterated its demand that New Jersey repay $271 million that it had advanced to New Jersey Transit for the former “ARC” project.

There is little dispute that New Jersey rail riders should have an enhanced railroad and a new tunnel to New York Penn Station, and the Lackawanna Coalition insists that it can and should be built for an affordable price. The Coalition has advocated for such a project since before Gov. Chris Christie terminated the former “ARC” project last fall.  Christie halted work on the project, which would have included a new “deep-cavern” terminal 20 stories below 34th Street in Manhattan, because of its excessive cost.  He also noted that the project was “flawed” because it did not go to Penn Station or connect with Amtrak and could not be extended to the East Side of Midtown.  This past February, Amtrak proposed its Gateway Project, which would bring new tracks into a stub-end annex adjacent to Penn Station, but its price tag is equally high and no source of funding has been identified for it.

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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.

FTA Sends Bill to NJT

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has sent a bill to New Jersey Transit for $271 million for money advanced to the agency for work on the ARC Project, which Gov. Christie scrapped last month.
NJT Executive Director James Weinstein disputed the bill and also said that there will not be a fare increase to raise money to pay it.
Lackawanna Coalition Techical Director Joseph M. Clift said that, while NJT has sunk costs of about $600 million on the project, that is better than incurring billions of dollars of debt that New Jersey would have to pay in the future.
The Lackawanna Coalition and other rider advocacy organizatios continue to advocate for the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would bring new tunnels to the existing Penn Station with enhancements to improve station capacity.