The Federal Transit Administration has just approved the environmental impact statement for the Hudson River rail tunnel project. This comes amid recent statements by the Port Authority and Governor Jon Corzine touting the benefits of these two additional single track railroad tunnels that would link New Jersey and New York City, and would indicate the project is now on the fast track.
I feel the project is worthwhile. Going from two track to four will actually more than double rail capacity because it will make routing of trains more efficient and provide for detours around stalled trains and maintenance sites - something that is a real problen with only two tracks in service now. It will also make possible re-activation of passenger service on the West Trenton Line through Hillsborough, as well as other lines, and may include the possibility of "one-seat" service on the Raritan Valley Line, with no change at Newark.
But neither Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia nor Jon Corzine cited any of these benefits in their recent remarks. Each is now praising the project because of the economic stimulus the construction will provide to our region.
In my opinion, this is the wrong reason to go forward with the tunnels. I agree that an injection of federal and state money into regional projects can help the economy - but this is a TEN YEAR PROJECT, costing $8.7 BILLION that will mostly benefit unions and cronies. Many economists feel the recession will last another 18 months, not 10 years, and by the time we are out of the recession we will already have committed to this project - whose costs keep escalating each year.
If helping the regional economy is the new goal, perhaps spending $1 billion right now on short term projects that will employ people immediately would be a better use of our taxpayer money and highway tolls.
We can always take another look at the tunnels in a year or two - the Hudson River isn't going anywhere!