On Tuesday afternoon, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced his selection of Kevin Corbett, an executive at transportation contractor AECOM, as the new Executive Director of the state transportation agency, pending board approval.
Corbett takes the position at a time when New Jersey Transit has been hobbled by safety incidents, and, in 2016, had the sixth-highest number of mechanical failures of any railroad. He has been involved in transportation for many years, serving on the boards of the Regional Plan Association think tank, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign advocacy organization. And he is a regular rider of the agency’s Morris & Essex lines, flashing back to the so-called “Summer of Hell” during his speech, referencing his “improvise, adapt, overcome” battle cry to fellow commuters.
Murphy emphasized that he wished to “yank the system back from the brink,” and that the current crisis is due to a “failure of leadership.” The Governor is continuing on his path to try and reform the agency, building on the announcement last Monday of financial and operational audits.
Murphy repeatedly said that the reforms are part of a “long-term effort” to improve the agency, and results may not be immediately apparent.
There was also other big news at the press conference, regarding the installation of positive train control, a safety technology designed to prevent train collisions and other accidents.
When asked whether New Jersey Transit could meet the federal December 2018 installation deadline, acting Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, in a reversal from previous statements from the agency, said “nobody can say that right now.” She indicated that current Executive Director Steve Santoro had met with the Federal Railroad Administration regarding the project, and that her team was looking into different “remedies” with the contractor.