Gov. Christie, Democratic U.S. senators scramble to take credit for Gateway tunnel project

Gov. Christie, Democratic U.S. senators scramble to take credit for Gateway tunnel project

Monday, February 07, 2011, StarLedger

After months of feuding since Gov. Chris Christie killed the rail tunnel under the Hudson River, the announcement of a new project today left the Republican governor and the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators scrambling for credit.

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who announced the new tunnel, cast themselves as the savior of the commuter, reviving a project they said Christie abandoned. With a new deal that would include more federal funding, Christie took credit for saving New Jersey taxpayers what he said might have been billions in cost overruns on the Access to the Regions Core tunnel he nixed.

The tunnel could be a topic where both sides can claim political victory, said Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison.

"Clearly Menendez and Lautenberg get credit for bringing home the bacon," Harrison said. "It’s a win-win for Christie. He gets national coverage for cancelling the largest taxpayer funded infrastructure project and then walks away without any of the political fallout."

Lautenberg and Menendez said the new Gateway tunnel will create jobs and boost the state’s economy. "Letting our transportation infrastructure in the Northeast remain a rusty relic of a bygone industrial age ... is neither smart economics nor in our national interest nor in the interest of New Jersey," Menendez said. "We have to invest to keep up."

The Gateway tunnel was the work of Menendez and Lautenberg, who heads the Senate committee that oversee Amtrak. After canceling the first project, Christie played no role in the Gateway tunnel — something that wasn’t missed by Lautenberg.

"Since the ARC tunnel was cancelled, New Jersey officials just shrugged their shoulders when asked how we are going to deal with it," he said.

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