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Ranking transportation lawmakers seeking statewide master plan

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Senate Transportation Chair Pat Diegnan at Tuesday's Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s Transportation Summit.
Senate Transportation Chair Pat Diegnan at Tuesday's Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s Transportation Summit. - ()

The state Legislature’s ranking transportation lawmakers are backing a move to create a statewide transportation master plan just days before a Thursday hearing in Trenton on New Jersey Transit’s so-called “Summer of Hell 2.”

Speaking Tuesday at the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s Transportation Summit in Woodbridge, Senate Transportation Chair Pat Diegnan, D-18th District, said he plans to sponsor such a bill, with the hopes of getting it signed into law by the end of the year.

Diegnan said he wants to form a panel of about a dozen transportation experts to lay out the master plan.

“Let’s admit it, nobody wants to address our transportation challenges more than the group that’s in this room today,” he said.

At the summit were Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti and representatives from United Airlines, United Parcel Service and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, all of whom addressed the audience.

Assembly Transportation Vice-Chair Patricia Egan Jones, D-5th District, said the state hasn’t put forth such a plan in nearly 30 years, calling it long overdue.

“It’s a really good idea to bring people who know day in, day out, what’s going on on the roads, what they need,” Jones told NJBIZ.

And that decades-old plan was downgraded from a master plan to an advisory one, Jones said, which has less sway over state policy.

“I don’t think anybody looks at it,” she added.

On Thursday, the Senate and Assembly transportation committees will be conducting a joint hearing on problems at NJ Transit, which have included staffing shortages, dozens of cancelled and delayed trains, equipment breakdowns and a last-minute dash to install federally mandated positive train control braking technology on all New Jersey’s trains.

Lawmakers also want to hear more on NJ Transit’s decision to halt all service on the Atlantic City line until early 2019 while they install the PTC system, as well as their recent move to end one-seat service on the Raritan Valley Line to New York Penn Station.

Gov. Phil Murphy, at an NJ Transit press conference last week at its Newark headquarters, said he underestimated the scope of the issues plaguing the transit system, but will continue to push forward on fixing the agency.

That same week, frustrated commuters grilled the NJ Transit Board of Commissioners on the recurring problems of the past few weeks.

But for commuters, that fix won’t happen right away.

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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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