Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Jersey Governor-elect taps DOT, NJ Transit chiefs

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New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie has nominated James Weinstein to become New Jersey Transit's executive director, and named former Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson to become the state’s transportation commissioner. Christie announced his choices and introduced the duo Monday at a conference in Trenton, the state capital.

Christie also made it clear he intends not to raise New Jersey’s gasoline tax, among the lowest in the nation, to fund the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. But Christie also alluded to possible fare hikes for New Jersey Transit bus and rail riders.

"Our state is facing great fiscal difficulties, which is why I am pleased to have two individuals with extensive backgrounds in management, budgeting, and infrastructure," Christie said. "Both Jim Simpson and James Weinstein know the tough road ahead of us and have the strong credentials to handle the task at hand."

Weinstein, if approved by NJ Transit’s Board of Directors, would succeed NJT Executive Director Richard Sarles, who announced his intention to step down Monday. Weinstein was a senior vice president with AECOM, and served as a member of Christie's transition team. He also served as DOT commissioner from 1999 to 2001 under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Gov. Donald T. DiFrencesco. In 2002 Weinstein was Amtrak’s senior vice president-Northeast Corridor. 

Simpson was with the Federal Transit Administration between 2005 and 2008 underthe Bush Administration. He also was a senior adviser to the U.S.transportation secretary and a commissioner with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Simpson said the department would explore "a whole host of options" for replenishing the state's depleted transportation trust fund but would not increase the gas tax. "We need to look beyond the gas tax at possible public-private partnerships and ways to cut costs," said Simpson, who must be confirmed by the full state Senate.