The Philadelphia Inquirer has just reported that Gov. Rendell is threatening to close the high-speed transit rail system (the PATCO "Speedline") if New Jersey politicans don't go along with his plan to dredge an extra 45 feet along 120 miles of the Deleware River to accommodate extra shipping traffic. Rendell contends that such a move would allow for more shipping traffic capacity and would make the region more competitive with ports like New York and Newark. New Jersey officials counter that dredging the river could cause extensive environmental damage and that the price tag for the project (Rendell's office claims it'll run ~$3oo,ooo,ooo) is too modest and more likely will be twice that much. This is Philly after all where such estimates tend to be wildly off the mark. I might add it's bitterly ironic that this is the same Ed Rendell who skewered Septa transit workers whose recent strike shut down Philly's subway system for a week. Surely he remembers the argument that he made at the time against shutting down mass transit. Now he wants to shut down mass transit? Hypocrit?
So far, NJ Governor-elect Jon Corzine (another progressive I helped to put into the Governor's mansion) is conspicuously mum on the subject. His office has refused to comment on whether he was involved in any negotiations. Corzine's office did say that his transition team is studying the proposed project. Whatever that means. I'd be nice if Corzine would clarify his stance, but this isn't about Corzine. This is about Ed Rendell making mean-spirited threats to his neigbors, and the ill-will that kind of behavior breeds.
Now I really don't believe Ed Rendell would do something so stupid as to close the commuter link between Philly and South Jersey. Surely he must know that such a move would be a logistical and public relations fiasco for the city of Philadelphia. After all, every day the Speedline ferries some 3o,ooo folks from South Jersey who use the train to get to Philly to work or to shop. This includes my partner Greg who uses the Speedline everyday to go downtown to his job at Urban Outfitters corporate headquarters. In fact, a lot of Greg's colleagues at Urban take Speedline downtown to work, as well. Now if Rendell follows through with his ridiculous threat, then who's gonna design all the cool hip stuff that Urban Outfitters' customers have come to demand?? On top of all his other missteps, can Rendell really afford to piss off the 18-25 cool and disaffected constituency? (wink)
It's not my intention to debate the merits for or against this dredging scheme. It very well may be a sound idea. If this is how Governor Rendell chooses to play political hardball by threatening his neighbors, then he should be ready to take the p.r. hit.
Draw your own conclusions.