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Report: Legal Battle Over Trans-Hudson Tunnel Construction Costs N.J. Over $800,000

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey has spent more than $800,000 in legal fees fighting the federal government's $271 million bill for the scrapped Hudson River rail tunnel project.

Invoices show the Washington, D.C.-based Patton Boggs law firm billed the state $469,715 for work performed in January alone.

The Record newspaper reports that covers more than 700 hours of work performed by 11 attorneys.

The newspaper says those costs are in addition to the $333,281 NJ Transit has already paid the law firm for work in December.

NJ Transit spokesman Paul Wyckoff says attorneys in January were building a case for why New Jersey should not have to repay the Federal Transit Administration.

Gov. Chris Christie scuttled the plans to build a second commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River, a project that would have been the United States' biggest public works project if it had gone forward, because he feared huge cost overruns. The cost was an estimated $9 billion to $14 billion.

The Tunnel was in the planning stages for decades. Last year, federal authorities mailed New Jersey a bill for $271 million for engineering and construction work done on the tunnel before cancellation.

In February, New Jersey's Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez threw their support behind a proposal to build a new "Gateway Tunnel" to boost needed rail passenger services between New York City and New Jersey.

They said in a press release that the tunnel would amount to a new Trans-Hudson rail tunnel.

"The Gateway Project is a vision for our future that will shorten commutes, create jobs, increase property values and grow New Jersey's economy," Sen. Lautenberg said.

Amtrak proposed to spend $50 million to begin preliminary engineering and design on two new rail tunnels, and planned to seek additional funds from New Jersey, New York State, New York City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority.

Amtrak said it also would allow for 13 additional NJ Transit trains per hour and eight additional Amtrak trains, increasing NJ Transit commuter rail capacity into New York by 65 percent.

The company estimates the entire project could be completed in 2020 at $13.5 billion.

Gov. Christie sounded open-minded about the new proposal.

"We'll see if it's good for the taxpayers of this state. So well see. But as we sit here today, now, if they ask me for a check today, the answer is no," Christie told CBS 2's John Metaxas.

Lautenberg said New Jersey is facing a transportation crisis and said something needs to be done about it immediately.

"When the ARC Tunnel was cancelled, it was clear to me that we couldn't just throw up our hands and wait years to find another solution," he said.

"We say this new Trans-Hudson tunnel is right for New Jersey and right for the region and its future," Sen. Robert Menendez said.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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