NJ Transit senior staff to turn over with incoming governor

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NEW YORK CITY — Heads are rolling at NJ Transit ahead of a change in leadership in New Jersey governor’s mansion.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy sent a letter to Steve Santoro, NJ Transit’s executive director, requesting the resignations of certain high-level staff at commuter agency. With a Jan. 16 inauguration, this is part of the transition plan for the incoming Murphy administration, coming to power. The Bergen Record obtained a copy of the letter, which gave staff members until 4:30 p.m. today to submit their resignations, but they could continue until in their posts until Jan. 16. Santoro will leave in April.

Robert Lavell, NJ Transit vice president and general manager of rail operations, testified before state lawmakers on Monday that NJ Transit lost experienced managers to retirement and other railroads. Lavell also said the agency has struggled to attract qualified replacements because it could not offer competitive salaries, while high-ranking NJ Transit employees with ties to outgoing Gov. Chris Christie received promotions and pay increases.

The incoming transportation commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, with 27 years in the highway field, will have a formidable task ahead in rebuilding NJ Transit.

Questions about safety and reliability have dogged the agency for the past few years. Almost 1 million passenger trips a day on commuter trains, light rail, and buses have created anxiety among its travelers. With the Federal Railroad Administration watching safety compliance, a loss of 25 percent of rail managers, and loss of operating engineers to Metro-North seeking and obtaining better compensation, Gutierrez-Scaccetti will have a difficult agenda to follow.

See the original article online.
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