Friday, October 29, 2010

Something OTHER THAN the election!

Well, there IS other news in New Jersey besides the upcoming election. Wednesday Governor Chris Christie reaffirmed his decision to cancel the propsed ARC (access to the Region's Core) tunnel under the Hudson River. While some call it the tunnel to Macy's basement (or to nowhere), others argue the tunnel is absolutely needed to allow continued economic growth in NJ, as there is essentially no more capacity to move commuters via rail from NJ to NYC.

The Governor put the kibosh on the tunnel saying that the expected cost (including estimates of overruns) is just too rich for New Jersey's blood in this day or retrnechment and cuts. Never mind that the project has been under way for more than a decade and that dirt has actually been moved and properties acquired. The holes that have been dug are to be filled in and the project ended immediately. NJ may find itself paying back hundreds of millions to the federal government and foregoing billions in transit funding.

Be that as it may, since we were going into the field for the pre-election, we decided to ask a few questions about the tunnel and transportation funding.

The upshot - NJ voters support the Governor's decision, especially voters living outside of the NYC commuting area. While a pluraility thinks enough is being spent on transportation already, a signifcant share believe more needs to be spent, and these voters are much ore likely to oppose Christie's decision.

And as befitting a state with a thousand-lane turnpike (or whatever it is) running through it, New Jerseyans would prefer money be spend on roads and bridges rather than trains and buses, if they had to make a choice between the two.

The full release with tables is here.

The release itself follows:


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A majority of New Jerseyans support the cancellation of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project announced two weeks ago and reaffirmed this week by Gov. Chris Christie, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. While believing the tunnel could be important to the state’s economic development, 51percent of Garden State voters think Christie was right to cancel the project, while 39 percent disagree with the decision, and 10 percent are unsure.

Support for canceling the tunnel varies by region. Northern New Jerseyans and commuters to Manhattan are more likely to disagree with the decision. A majority of commuters (52 percent) opposes Christie’s decision. Support for the decision is split, 46 percent to 45 percent, for those living in northern New Jersey counties.

“Across the state, voters applaud the governor’s decision,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While those who regularly travel to New York feel differently, much of the state agrees with Christie that the project is too expensive.”

The poll of 885 registered voters was conducted October 21-27, with a +/- 3.3 percentage point margin of error.

Opinions on transportation spending split

While 40 percent of voters say “just the right amount” is being spent on transportation, nearly one-third (32 percent) believe the state needs to spend more, and about 12 percent say too much is being spent. Another 16 percent are not sure. Asked to prioritize spending, 58 percent believe funding should go toward roads and bridges rather than trains and buses while 32 percent would prioritize trains and buses. Eight percent don’t know.

Two-thirds who say the state is spending the right amount favor investing first on roads and bridges. Responses are more mixed among those wanting additional spending: 48 percent prefer a focus on roads and bridges, while 44 percent make spending on trains and buses their priority.

Respondent-advocates of mass transit oppose Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC tunnel, 48 percent to 41 percent; 11 percent are undecided. Those focused on spending for roads and bridges strongly favor cancellation, 57 percent to 36 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

“Clearly, support for Christie’s decision depends on your belief in increased state spending for public transportation infrastructure,” said Redlawsk. “Most New Jerseyans rely on their cars and would prefer spending focus on roads and bridges.”

Garden Staters question value of ARC to economic development

Across the state, New Jerseyans are dubious about the economic value of the proposed tunnel. Only 28 percent say the tunnel is “very important” to the state’s economic development, while 42 percent call it “somewhat important.” Almost one-quarter consider it not at all important to the state’s economy. Commuters and north Jersey residents are more likely to see the tunnel as important, with 38 percent of city commuters calling it very important, and 34 percent of all north Jersey residents agreeing.

Support for Christie’s position has partisan undertones

Like nearly everything Christie does, the decision on the tunnel strikes Democrats very differently from Republicans. While 71 percent of Republicans support the governor’s decision, only 32 percent of Democrats do so. However, a strong majority of independents (58 percent) side with Christie on canceling the tunnel.

While more supportive of the project, only 39 percent of Democrats say trains and buses should have priority in spending. Even fewer independents (29 percent) and Republicans (27 percent) feel the same. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats say too little is being spent on transportation generally compared to 30 percent of Republicans. Independents are least likely to think more needs to be spent, and only 26 percent say so.

“The fact that it is Christie canceling the tunnel is what seems to bother Democrats most,” said Redlawsk. “While they are somewhat more likely to support public transportation and think more needs to be spent, their opposition to Christie’s decision really goes beyond this, since many Democrats who want more roads and bridges and think spending levels are fine are also unhappy with the decision.”

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