Commuter Rail: Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project Page: 2 of 29
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
Highlights of GAO-12-344, a report to the
Chairman, Subcommittee on Surface
Transportation and Merchant Marine
Infrastructure, Safety, and Security,
Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation, U.S. Senate
Why GAO Did This Study
Studies have estimated that transit
travel demand between New Jersey
and Manhattan will increase by 38
percent by 2030. The Access to the
Region's Core commuter rail project
was designed to help meet that rising
demand. In October 2010, the
governor of New Jersey, citing
potential cost growth and the state's
fiscal condition, withdrew state support
and cancelled the project. The New
Jersey Transit (NJT) was the lead
agency for the project, supported by
the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey (Port Authority). The
project was to be partially funded
under the Federal Transit
Administration's (FTA) New Starts
GAO was asked to examine (1) what
would have been the mobility,
economic, and environmental benefits
of the project according to major
planning studies; (2) the project cost
estimates over time; and (3) how, if at
all, documents prepared as part of the
New Starts process addressed
potential cost growth for the project.
GAO reviewed the literature and major
project planning studies, FTA reports,
and economic and cost estimates by
NJT and other planning organizations.
GAO interviewed officials from FTA,
state and local transit agencies, and
local planning organizations. GAO is
making no recommendations in this
The Department of Transportation
provided technical comments, which
GAO incorporated in the report.
View GAO-12-344. For more information,
contact David Wise at (202) 512-3834 or
Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the
Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project
What GAO Found
Studies estimated that the Access to the Region's Core commuter rail project
would have provided mobility benefits, but other benefits would either have been
limited or are difficult to measure. According to various studies:
* The project would have helped meet the projected increase in travel demand
and improved mobility by doubling the number of daily peak period trains, and
significantly increasing daily trips between New Jersey and Manhattan-from
about 174,000 without the project to 254,000 with the project by 2030-while
reducing transfers and station crowding and improving reliability of service.
* The project potentially would have generated economic activity in the region in
the form of jobs and income, business activity, and increased home values,
but many economic effects were hard to predict with certainty. For example,
the extent to which the project would shift the location of economic activity,
versus providing additional net economic activity, is uncertain.
* The project was estimated to have created limited but mostly positive
environmental effects-in particular, improved air quality-and included
measures to mitigate negative effects such as noise and storm water runoff.
Over time, the cost estimates for the project increased from an initial estimate of
$7.4 billion in 2006. In 2008 and 2010, FTA performed risk assessments and
revised the cost estimate. FTA and NJT agreed upon a baseline cost estimate of
$8.7 billion in 2009. After considering comments from NJT, which projected lower
costs than FTA, FTA revised its estimate and issued a cost estimate of $9.8
billion to $12.4 billion in October 2010. As of April 2010, federal sources were
expected to fund about half the cost, with the remainder divided between New
Jersey Turnpike funds and the Port Authority.
Because the project was terminated before FTA and NJT entered into a full
funding grant agreement, there was no final agreement by all the parties on the
issue of responsibility for project cost growth. While the Secretary of
Transportation and the governor of New Jersey held discussions on additional
funding options, planning documents did not address the source of funding of
potential cost growth for the project.
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Commuter Rail: Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project, report, March 9, 2012; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc300095/m1/2/: accessed July 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.