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Senate Transportation Chair wants to fast-track NJ Transit hearings

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Senate Transportation Chair Patrick Diegnan is eyeing an Aug. 16 hearing.
Senate Transportation Chair Patrick Diegnan is eyeing an Aug. 16 hearing. - ()

Following an uptick in New Jersey Transit cancellations, delays and staffing shortages, lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to hold a joint legislative Transportation Committee hearing to examine problems experienced by the beleaguered agency.

Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chairman Daniel Benson confirmed a hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 16.

“Let’s hear what the advocates have to say, let’s hear what those in positions of authority have to say,” Senate Transportation Chair Patrick Diegnan, D-18th District, told NJBIZ. “We’re all on the same page.”

Diegnan indicated his office is reaching out to the transportation commissioner; NJ Transit officials; unions that represent the agency’s employees; Assembly Transportation Chair Daniel Benson, D-14th District; and Transportation Committee members in the Assembly and Senate.

“During Gov. Christie’s eight years in office, NJ Transit was mismanaged and the budgets signed into law consistently underfunded the agency. But Gov. [Phil] Murphy is committed to ending that era of inaction and funding cuts,” said Dan Bryan, press secretary for the governor’s office, in a statement to NJBIZ.

Bryan said that Murphy’s audit of NJ Transit and appropriations increases to the agency for the 2019 fiscal year will help achieve that goal.

In the past two weeks, the agency has been plagued by dozens of delays and outright cancellations, fueled in part by the rush to install positive train control technology meant to monitor train speeds and locations in time for a Dec. 31 deadline.

The NJ Transit board of directors was having its monthly meeting Wednesday and the topic of delays and cancellations was front and center.

Last week, agency officials announced they would suspend direct New York City service for the Raritan Valley Line beginning Sept. 10. And to install the positive train controls, the agency also will suspend all service on the Atlantic City line beginning Sept. 5, which is scheduled to last until early 2019.

On Monday, the air conditioning failed at the Secaucus Junction, subjecting thousands of commuters to sweltering heat. That same day, a Verizon network issue triggered problems for the ticket vending machines and MyBus Now.

Meantime, staffing shortages resulting from employees who have either retired or moved to high-paying public transit jobs on the New York side of the Hudson River are in the process of being addressed.

“The Governor looks forward to working with Executive Director Kevin Corbett and the New Jersey Department of Transportation to fix the agency over the long-term,” Bryan said.

A spokesperson for NJ Transit could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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