Clinton says Trump being 'petty' about $29.5B tunnel plan for Northeast

President Donald Trump’s hesitance to quickly back a nearly $30 billion rail-tunnel project to connect New York City to New Jersey was derided by Hillary Clinton on Friday night as an effort “to settle petty political scores.”

Clinton was speaking to members of the real estate industry at a gathering of the Regional Plan Association (RPA) in New York.

The so-called Gateway plan, estimated at $13.5 billion in 2011, is now projected to cost $29.5 billion, according to a letter this month from a group of House members to Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

In March, President Trump threatened to veto an omnibus spending bill that included funding for the state-federal project, saying he was concerned that the federal government would be saddled with the full cost -- as New York and New Jersey sought to pay their shares with money borrowed from Washington.

In March, journalist Josh Barro defended the president's cautious approach in an opinion article at BusinessInsider.com.

"Like most underground rail projects in New York, it's going to cost about five times as much as it should," Barro wrote.

"Like most underground rail projects in New York, it's going to cost about five times as much as it should."

- Josh Barro, BusinessInsider.com

The president’s critics, however, charged that Trump was simply looking to cause problems for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of Trump’s most vocal detractors.

It was that view that Clinton appeared to be seizing on Friday night.

“It’s time for the Trump administration to stop using this vital project to settle petty political scores,” Clinton told the RPA gathering, Politico reported.

“It’s time for the Trump administration to stop using this vital project to settle petty political scores.”

- Hillary Clinton

Earlier Friday, a group of mostly Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey voiced support for the project, with one saying that federal funding for the plan is being blocked by “moocher” states that oppose subsidies for New Jersey while accepting federal dollars for their own needs.

New Jersey, considered the nation’s third wealthiest state, ranks among a handful of states that pay Washington more tax dollars than they get back in services.

"They're picking on states like ours that have historically sent resources over to them," U.S. Rep. Gottheimer, D-N.J., said, according to NJ.com. "You want to keep score? We'll keep score. We're going to come after them every single time they're going to play this."

The existing rail tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey below the Hudson River is decades old and suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As a result, rail lines that use the tunnel – including Amtrak and NJ Transit – experience frequent service interruptions in part because of ongoing repair work.