TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie opened fire on the media for questioning him about NJ Transit’s increasingly overcrowded cars and deteriorating safety record, placing blame for its woes squarely on Amtrak, and not on his stewardship or his decision to kill the ARC Tunnel project.
Appearing on his monthly call-in radio show on NJ 101.5 Thursday evening, the governor rejected the premise of a question by moderator Eric Scott that Garden State riders were complaining about jam-packed conditions.
“I have not heard much about overcrowded trains,” said Christie.
“Our trains are gonna be crowded, given the number of people who increasingly use NJ Transit.”
New Jersey Transit has dozens of double-decker train cars that can fit through the two Hudson River tunnels. But because there are only two tunnels, peak period track slots into and out of New York City are at capacity and no additional trains can be added into the city during peak hours, according to NJ Transit’s own spokeswoman.
That, paired with record levels of ridership, creates overcrowded conditions on trains not designed for standing commuters.
— David Spetgang (@DSpetgang) March 15, 2017
The ARC tunnel was designed to double tunnel capacity by 2018, but Christie unplugged it in 2010.
Under Christie, NJ Transit has also diverted more than $2 billion from its capital budget between 2012 and 2016, using it to instead fund daily operations.
But on Thursday, the governor pointed out that NJ Transit’s budget had nevertheless increased by 55 percent since he assumed office in 2010, assailing the media’s coverage of his caretaking of NJ Transit as unfair and inaccurate.
“The press in this state isn’t happy unless they’re bitching,” said Christie.
In 2016, NJ Transit had more accidents and paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the past five years, according to federal safety data.
That’s triple the number of accidents experienced by the nation’s largest railroad, the LIRR, according to analysis of data from January 2011 through July 2016 by the AP.
Meanwhile, the governor also doubled down on his decision to cancel the Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC tunnel in 2010.
“First off, if we’d gone forward with the ARC Tunnel, it still wouldn’t be done, even if it was happening on time” said Christie.
The ARC project was budgeted at $8.7 billion and scheduled for completion in 2018, but its lack of direct access to New York’s Penn Station was “ridiculous,” Christie said. The governor said at the time that he did not want New Jersey to be socked by cost overruns under that deal.
Its successor, the Gateway Program, will take a decade to finish but runs into Penn Station, and won’t run New Jersey into financial ruin, the governor…