NJ Transit Chief Resigns to Make Way for Governor-Elect’s Pick
By: | Jan 04 2018 at 05:51 PM | Intermodal
Steve Santoro, New Jersey Transit’s executive director for 15 months, will leave the troubled agency in April, he wrote in an email to employees.
An 18-year veteran of the nation’s largest statewide commuter transportation provider, Santoro was appointed executive director in October 2016. The third to serve in the role in 18 months, he inherited an operations morass amid years of budget cuts by Republican Governor Chris Christie. The agency, once a national model, has the most accidents and highest safety fines among its peers, federal data show.
Santoro is due in Trenton on Monday before a legislative committee reviewing NJ Transit’s decline. Under his leadership, the agency released 28,000 pages of documents requested by the panel, but has withheld subpoenaed records including reports on finances, compliance and internal audits.
In an email addressed to colleagues and obtained by Bloomberg, Santoro said he had submitted his resignation to state Transportation Commissioner Rick Hammer and will leave in April.
“I am ensuring a smooth transition for the new administration,” Santoro wrote. He thanked staff “for your dedication, hard work and support during challenging times.”
Santoro didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment. Hammer, in an emailed statement issued by NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder, praised Santoro’s guidance “during a very critical time in our history.”
Governor-elect Phil Murphy, a Democrat who will take office next week, has called NJ Transit “a national disgrace,” and attributed its troubles directly to Christie’s financial decisions. Though he has named Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti as his choice to succeed Hammer, Murphy has yet to pick an NJ Transit leader.
During Christie’s eight years, he raised fares twice, cut the operating budget 90 percent and shifted $3.4 billion from the capital budget to cover day-to-day expenses. In September 2016, a train operating at more than double the speed limit crashed at Hoboken Terminal, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100 passengers.
Christie in 2010 canceled New Jersey Transit’s fully federally funded Hudson River tunnel to Manhattan, which was to open as soon as next year. Its replacement, Amtrak’s $12.7 billion Gateway tunnel, has no federal financing commitment from Donald Trump’s administration.