Gov. Chris Christie said he thinks that by threatening to withhold payments from Amtrak, New Jersey has “now gotten their attention” and hopes the issues can be resolved before the next bill comes due in May.

The statement on Thursday night's installment of "Ask the Governor," part of a full-throated defense of his record on transportation — in which he said he's proud both to have increased funding and to have scuttled the Access to the Region's Core tunnel project originally intended to relieve congestion.

In the wake of two recent train derailments, the first of which snarled train traffic for a week, Christie said the problems of the last three weeks were the fault of Amtrak, not New Jersey Transit. The federal agency owns and maintains the infrastructure for the Northeast Corridor line.

“I don’t want to be in a circumstance where I’m withholding payments. I understand that that’s a very, very aggressive maneuver. But I need to get their attention. I will tell you, I believe we’ve now gotten their attention,” Christie said.

“In the end, I just want them to do their job. I’m happy to pay the rent if you do the job, but not if you’re going to cause two derailments and all the delays that go along with that. That’s not acceptable to me,” Christie said.

Amtrak has said the second derailment, which occurred last Friday night, appears to have been a NJ Transit mechanical problem.

Christie said he’s proud of his transportation record and defended his handling of NJ Transit, saying the amount of the money from the state budget to the agency is up by more than half and that capital funds have now been increased.

“The fact of the matter is when you’re moving that many people every day, some days it’s not going to work perfectly,” Christie said.

On questions about overcrowding: “Our trains are going to be crowded, given the number of people who increasingly use New Jersey Transit.”

On canceling a new train tunnel to New York in 2010: “’If you had built the ARC tunnel, it would all be fine?’ Baloney! It wouldn’t be finished yet. And where were we going to find the money to finish it? From, like, the magic bank account of the New Jersey press corps? I mean, come on, this stuff is asinine.”

But it's on the subject of critical questions from the media where  Christie got the most animated.

“The press in this state isn’t happy unless they’re bitching. It’s just the way it is,” Christie said. Asked if that’s a kind of a New Jersey attitude, he disagreed: “I think New Jerseyans have their ups and their downs. The press have only downs. This is what they like to do.”

And some of that was aimed squarely at New Jersey 101.5 morning host Bill Spadea, among the governor's fiercest critics for his role in raising the state's gas tax by 23 cents per gallon last year.

"I took the slings and arrows from people on this stupid radio station for increasing the gas tax. And I did it because I had to, and by the way, what they refuse to acknowledge is we got more in tax cuts than there were in tax increases," Christie said.

He continued, telling news director Eric Scott: "But the dummies on this radio station, and the guests they have don't want to acknowledge that, because that's difficult math for them to work with, for the dope you work with in the morning. You're lucky there's not an IQ test to have a host on this show."

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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