Lawmakers in Trenton are having another go at ramping up scrutiny of the Port Authority, the bi-state agency that controls most of the New York Metro Area’s critical infrastructure points.
The Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee approved two measures Monday, one to increase oversight of the Port Authority and another that would increase scrutiny over New Jersey Transit.
“We need to ensure that the new era of accountability they have put in place is permanent, and that we never go back to the era of secret toll hikes and stonewalling that characterized the agency leading up to and including Bridgegate,” said State Sen. Loretta Weinberg,” D-37th District, one of the bill’s sponsors.
State legislators have made numerous attempts since 2011 to increase oversight of the Port Authority and more recently, NJ Transit, but those efforts had fallen short of approval from then-Gov. Chris Christie.
Weinberg pointed to a myriad problems with both transit agencies that have hounded commuters in recent years, including the Bridgegate scandal, a fatal derailment of a commuter rail in Hoboken, issues with NJ Transit’s board and management and hastily approved fare, and toll hikes by the Port Authority in 2011.
With Gov. Phil Murphy having pledged to better monitor both agencies, lawmakers see this as another chance to push these measures through.
For any regulatory changes to take affect at the Port Authority, the governors of New York and New Jersey have to approve identical measures.
The Port Authority measure, Senate Bill 619, would require a 90-day vetting period before any proposed toll increases, on top of at least six public meetings no less than 30 days before the increase would take effect.
Lawmakers from both New York and New Jersey would have to be notified at least 60 days before the board votes on a 10-year capital plan.
Both states would rotate with appointing an independent chief executive officer, as opposed to the current system where the New York governor appoints an executive director while a New Jersey Port Authority board member serves as chair.
Lastly, the bill authorizes both governors to appoint full-time policy liaisons who would act as watchdogs over the agency.
Under the NJ Transit measure, Senate Bill 630, the agency would be subject to similar requirements for public hearings prior to any fare changes.
S630 also calls for expanding the NJ Transit board of directors by adding two commuter representatives, two members recommended by regional planning organizations, two from the transportation labor unions and a member each appointed by the Senate president and assembly speaker.