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Let's Get Beyond the Politics and Fix the ARC Tunnel

Date : Wed, 6 Oct 2010 14:34:45 -0400

For Immediate Release
October 5, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Chapter Director, 609-558-9100

Let's Get Beyond the Politics and Fix the ARC Tunnel

The Sierra Club is pleased that Governor Christie is denying reports that he plans to kill the ARC tunnel project and will assess its merits. We believe now is the time to for all involved parties to stop throwing mud and come together to improve the project and create a better regional rail system.

The ARC tunnel, a NJ Transit project to connect New Jersey to Manhattan, was put on a 30 day hold earlier this month by Governor Christie because of fears it was going over budget. The Sierra Club hopes that by the end of the 30 days, our leaders will agree to collaborate and develop the best possible plan for the future of the tunnel. Even if the time out extends beyond the 30 days, we still believe collaboration between all parties is important.

"We're glad the governor will judge the project on its merits. We believe we should fix the tunnel and not steal the money," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "Now is the best opportunity to bring everyone together to come up with a comprehensive plan so the ARC tunnel meets its goals and works for everyone in the region."

With Amtrak's recent announcement that it plans to develop a high speed rail network throughout the Northeast, another tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York is imperative. But the current configuration of the tunnel does not meet the original goals for the project. Instead of connecting to Penn Station or the new Moynihan Station, the ARC tunnel dead ends 180 feet below the ground, two blocks from Penn Station

However, instead of working together, all we have seen from both sides is politicking and mud throwing. Democrats say the Governor is blocking progress on the project, and the Christie Administration has proposed taking the money allocated for the tunnel and putting it towards the Transportation Trust Fund, something the Sierra Club opposes.

Democrats and some ARC supporters are saying nothing can be done to fix or change the tunnel because we risk losing federal funds. However, that is untrue. The Federal Transit Administration initiated the review of cost overruns and the failure of New Jersey to have adequate safeguards on both finances and pay to play. Some supporters of the ARC tunnel don't believe the Amtrak tunnel could take place and would rather see a dead end tunnel than one that actually makes sense.

The Amtrak tunnel is a better fit for the nation and New Jersey. Furthermore, construction of the tunnel on the New Jersey side doesn't have to end. Work could continue in New Jersey as officials straighten out and fix the plan for the New York side, making the tunnel come into Penn Station and meeting the other objectives the project was initially supposed to achieve.

Our leaders should stop acting like children. Instead of using the ARC tunnel as a political football, we urge all sides to do their jobs and develop a plan that works. Money should not be taken away from the project, but the tunnel should meet the goals of the region.

With Amtrak's 30 year Capital Plan envisioning expanded high speed rail, the need for an effective and comprehensive plan for the tunnel is essential. An efficient and coordinated high speed rail system would benefit the people of New Jersey as well as the environment and we should work together to see it come to fruition.

The Sierra Club opposed the ARC tunnel in its current form because it is poorly designed and does not meet the goal of making public transportation more accessible and functional. We have consistently maintained the belief that a cohesive transportation plan must be established in order for the ARC tunnel to be effective.

There are presently five major proposals for the expansion of train service in and out of Midtown Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg is working to extend the Seven Train, which will go right above this NJ Transit tunnel. The Long Island Railroad wants to provide access to the East Side. Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing for the new Moynihan Station in Midtown. Congressman Jerry Nadler wants to establish a freight rail tunnel to displace traffic from the roads. Then there's this NJ Transit tunnel proposal. Each project is expecting, and actively seeking, federal dollars.

The fact that all of these projects are within a few blocks of each other demonstrates the lack of collaboration that exists in improving the region's transportation. Instead of a cohesive plan, we have created a mishmash of disjointed ideas.

The Sierra Club is calling on all of our leaders to work together in developing a plan that constructively brings all of these projects together and enables our public transportation system to give the people the true access to the region they deserve.

  Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org/> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org  

Received on 2010-10-06 11:34:45

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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