GAO report shows Christie played with numbers behind N.J. tunnel project

Congressional investigators, New Jersey officials disagree on total cost and contributions

April 10, 2012

A new report has revealed that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exaggerated numbers behind the cancellation of the new transit tunnel across the Hudson River.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is expected to release a report this week that documents how Christie threw out inflated project costs and exaggerated New Jersey’s contribution.

Christie said transportation officials had a range of what the tunnel would cost, and that the project could be as much as $14 billion. GAO reported officials said it would cost no more than $10 billion, and that the estimates had not changed since August 2008. Christie also indicated New Jersey would be responsible for 70% of the project cost, when in fact, according to GAO, it was just 14.4%. Christie said New Jersey would be responsible for the cost overruns, but the GAO report said the federal government agreed to share the burden.

A spokesman for Christie defended the governor’s actions. Michael Drewniak told The New York Times Christie’s cost included $775 million to build a new portal bridge, which was required, and the 70% contribution included costs that would have been absorbed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Federal highway and stimulus funds earmarked for New Jersey also were figured into the percentage, which Drewniak said amounted to 65.5%.

“The bottom line is that the GAO report simply bears out what we said in the fall of 2010 and say to this day: the ARC project was a very, very bad deal for New Jersey,” Drewniak told The New York Times.

Christie, however, is not coming out of this unscathed. Martin Robins, the founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, told The New York Times that Christie cannibalized the project so he could find an alternate way of keeping the transportation trust fund program moving.

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