POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Governor-elect announces Department of Transportation commissioner

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

A woman has been charged with the task of managing, fixing and updating a transit system derided by governor-elect Phil Murphy as a national disgrace.

“We are in crisis mode. Our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair and rejuvenation. [They are] ranked among the worst in the country. We need a strong leader to oversee the department’s multi-billion dollar capital program to ensure we’re building strong new connections between our communities, and not just putting down Band-Aids,” said Murphy.

Murphy is nominating Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti as the commissioner of the Department of Transportation. If confirmed by the state Senate, the New Jersey native will oversee the state’s roads, rails and airports.

In 2016, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state’s infrastructure a D-plus. However, NJ Transit that may be the biggest challenge ahead.

“It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be simple, but I promise you 100 percent of my time and dedication to that task and supporting the governor’s promises he made during his campaign to give a better commute to those people who chose to live, work and play in New Jersey,” said Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

“Our transportation infrastructure stands as the arteries and veins through which our states economic lifeblood flows,” said Murphy.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti brings a lifetime of transportation experience. She is coming back to New Jersey from Florida, where she currently heads the Florida Turnpike Enterprise. Prior to that, she spent two decades at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where she rose to be executive director.

She was asked Wednesday about accusations that the agency is riddled with unqualified people.

“If people are not performing services, we need to deal with that. We need to make certain we have people in the right seats on the bus,” she said.

But, is there enough money to pay for that bus? Gov. Chris Christie has proposed fare increases to pay for repairs and a new Hudson River tunnel.

“They go up anyway no matter what, and they say this is for this and they don’t use it,” said Westfield resident Robert Seigel.

“It’s not reliable. If the reliability factor went up, it might be worth paying more,” said Chris Carruthers from Hackettstown.

This is the governor-elect’s fifth cabinet pick — four have been women.

Murphy made criticizing the transportation system a key part of his campaign. Now he’s in the driver’s seat, and he and the future commissioner will have to manage a system that is short on cash and long on priorities.