Activists seeking to oust Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen this fall have already made the Gateway Hudson River Tunnel project a campaign issue. Frelinghuysen appears to have noticed, and after the U.S. Department of Transportation pushed back on what may or may not have been a commitment for federal funding, he fired off a strong letter.
Frelinghuysen is trying hard to stay on the right side of the Gateway issue. His problem is that as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, it will be hard to deflect criticism for a failure to deliver money from a federal budget he essentially controls. Politically, this is terrible for the twelve-term Republican.
In the days of his father, a billion or two would have been an easy lift for the House Appropriations boss. For better or worse, predecessors like George Mahon and Jamie Whitten achieved huge legacies by delivering for their home districts and states.
Expect Frelinghuysen to be criticized in 2018 for not fighting the cancellation of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project. The creation – later the construction – of a new trans-Hudson tunnel was prominently listed as one of Frelinghuysen’s “key mass transportation initiatives” on his congressional website from 2005 until the end of 2010.
Gov. Christie cancelled the ARC tunnel in October 2010, during Frelinghuysen’s re-election campaign. Not facing much of a race, Frelinghuysen didn’t say much of anything regarding the end of a project he had supported.
By the start of the next Congress, Frelinghuysen replaced creation and construction with a less lofty goal: “Improving commuter access to midtown Manhattan.”