“The challenges on our public transit system aside, we are committed to demonstrating our ability to deliver capital programs financed through the recently re-authorized Trust Fund,” New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said May 14. “The trust fund reauthorization, coupled with the 2016 gas tax increase, provides the ability to develop capital programs at a value of $2 billion per year over an eight-year period.”
The New Jersey Legislature approved increasing the gas tax by 23 cents per gallon in October 2016 after the trust fund was losing revenue. Then-Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law.
A week after taking office in January, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the audit of NJ Transit, which he labeled a “national disgrace” suffering from “extraordinary inefficiencies.” Murphy called for an operational assessment of NJ Transit’s finances, staffing and customer service.
NJDOT spokesman Steve Schapiro said North Highland is expected to issue a preliminary assessment within 90 days and a full audit report by the fall.
Meantime, Congress has mandated all rail agencies to install by Dec. 31 technology known as positive train controls to monitor trains’ speed and activate automatic braking when necessary.
NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said the agency has begun testing positive train controls on a six-mile stretch of track near Morristown.
“It’s fascinating,” Corbett said. “It’s a bit like watching the Space Shuttle program. You get to see inside [and] New Jersey has the most complex system in the country [of] freight and commuter rails. The complexity is pretty amazing.”
Corbett said the agency also is working to reduce train overcrowding by returning to service cars that were in repair yards, including train cars that have been outfitted with positive train control technology.