Christie Defends Transportation Decisions, Criticizes Media

NJ Transit had another rough start this morning. A switch problem in the Hudson River tubes causing widespread rush hour delays. But the governor says don’t blame him. For maintenance problems, overcrowding and the absence of that new ARC Tunnel to pick up the slack, don’t blame him. Or else. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron reports on last night’s radio call-in show “Ask the Governor.”

Aron: The governor got pretty agitated last night on the New Jersey Transit issue. He blamed Amtrak for the recent derailments and delays and took a couple of shots at one of our correspondents.

Chris Christie: I want people to understand something. Because I got asked an absolutely asinine question yesterday by David Cruz of NJTV, who asked me how I felt about letting NJ Transit whither on the vine during my governorship. During my governorship, we’ve increased New Jersey Transit’s budget by 55 percent in seven years. The budget this year dedicates $427 million to New Jersey Transit. That represents a 55 percent increase over what it was when I came in as governor.

Aron: Christie said when you’re moving as many people as NJ Transit does, it’s not going to work perfectly. His wife used to commute to New York, he said, so he knows the hardships. And then he returned to his previous point.

Christie: And the response, by the way, to me saying it was up 55 percent was, the reporter, David Cruz, came back to me and said well that was a lot of Turnpike money. I said, what the hell’s the difference? It’s transportation money. And it’s money. It’s not like it’s spent differently if it came from the Turnpike tolls or if it came from income tax or sales tax or corporate business tax. I mean, listen. The press in this state isn’t happy unless they’re bitching. That’s just the way it is. … I think New Jerseyans have their ups and their downs. The press have only downs.

Aron: In 2010, Christie famously canceled the ARC Tunnel project that would have been well underway by now. He defended that.

Christie: So you look at what’s happened and what the ARC deal was. Remember, ARC was going into the basement of Macy’s, not to Penn Station. We were spending a billion dollars to build a terminal seven stories below the street. You were going to have to take escalators seven stories up and then walk another four blocks to Penn Station and then go back down the escalators and get on other trains to take you to other places in New York City, either in Manhattan or the other outer boroughs. Ridiculous.

Aron: The new tunnel project called Gateway will go directly to Penn Station, he said, and the funding is much better for New Jersey. And again, he said he’s done a lot for transportation, more than his Democratic predecessors.

Christie: So this idea that somehow I haven’t contributed as governor is crazy. And it’s just the media playing into the anger of the commuting public who don’t like when they’re delayed. And I get that. And the media wants you to watch, so they say, “Yeah, it sucks! And he sucks! It’s his fault!” I mean, I was at that press conference yesterday with Sen. [Cory] Booker and [Newark] Mayor [Ras] Baraka and Congressman [Donald] Payne. And the media is laughable with their hysteria. They’re laughable with their changing of the facts. And David Cruz is a joke to say oh the money doesn’t count that you increased it 55 percent if some portion of that money came from the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s all transportation money, baby.

Aron: So you see, Christie was animated on the subject. As for our colleague David Cruz, it’s always an honor to be called out by name by the governor.