A former New Jersey governor predicts, regretfully, that Christie will get away with lying about the ARC tunnel
Don't get Richard Codey wrong: He'd love to see Governor Chris Christie pay for lying about his reasons for killing efforts to build a long-awaited, much-needed commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Codey, the popular Democratic state senator and former governor, routinely criticizes Christie, and was among the New Jersey officials who warned at the time that Christie was making a terrible mistake.
But even after the New York Times previewed a nonpartisan U.S. Goverment Accountability Office report that shows the current governor to have made false statements in order to justify his decision, Codey just doesn't believe it's going to be Christie who pays for it.
"The governor created a made-believe boondoggle to get the public for the most part on his side, saying, 'I’m gonna save you money, taxpayers,’" said Codey. "In the meantime he grabs that money to fulfill a campaign promise for the infrastructure and for labor. All with obvious misleading and some would say lies in regards to the real cost of the project. It worked for him politically and that’s what he cares about."
In 2009, officials broke ground on a nearly $9 billion project called A.R.C. (Access to the Region's Core) that would have substantially decreased rail congestion between New York and New Jersey, and along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. The project was paid for in part by federal money, along with state and Port Authority funds.
In 2010, Christie killed the project, citing huge cost overruns which, according to the G.A.O. report, didn't exist. He also said that New Jersey would have been forced to bear the brunt of those cost overruns. That, too, was false.
Christie has since diverted $4 billion of funding that was going to build A.R.C. to the state's highway trust fund, apparently so he could keep a campaign promise to not raise the state's gas tax.
Subsequent polling found that most New Jersey residents were fine with the governor's decision.
I asked Codey whether Christie would continue to enjoy the voters' approval, even after the report.
"Absolutely," he said, adding, "Because it doesn't reach the mainstream of the voter on Main Street."
I asked whether the New Jersey Democrats wouldn't try to find a way to use it against Christie, say, by capitalizing on anger among commuters on overcrowded and frequently late trains.
"The New Jersey Democrats don't exist," he said. "You heard me."
The repercussions would affect New Jersey, Codey said, but not necessarily Christie.
"Well, we’re at 97 percent capacity on those trains right now," said Codey. "So as our population continues to grow, and, a large part of why people move here is the ability to work in New York, but want a New Jersey lifestyle. OK, so if those people can’t get on a train, they’re not going to move to New Jersey, simple as that."
Codey thinks future generations unwilling to deal with the hassle of train congestion will move to Connecticut instead.
"That’s the reality," said Codey. "So he forgot about the generations to come."