Christie names new transportation commissioner
Gov. Chris Christie has named Richard Hammer as New Jersey's newest transportation commissioner.
Christie, a Republican, said in a statement Friday he will formally nominate Hammer to succeed Jamie Fox, the longtime Democratic operative, who announced his resignation earlier this month.
Hammer has served as an assistant commissioner responsible for the department's capital program management section, where he oversees a workforce of 1,100. He worked on infrastructure projects, including the $1.2 billion rehabilitation of the Pulaski Skyway and the $265 million reconstruction of Route 35 after Superstorm Sandy.
Christie, who is running for president, said Hammer has a "wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the transportation challenges that face the Garden State."
Fox departed as the state's fund to pay for road and bridge work faces insolvency. He had said the state would hit a wall if lawmakers and the executive do not find a way to pay for the transportation trust fund before the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
Democrats who control the Legislature have called for an increase in the state's 14.5-cent gas tax to boost the fund, but Christie has said Republicans should reject such proposals unless there are cuts to other surcharges, like the estate and inheritance taxes.
Fox's departure also came as federal investigators conducted a wide-ranging probe into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its connections with United Airlines. Fox previously worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the airline.
The investigation has expanded to include the Port Authority's actions at Newark's airport, including some involving United that led to the ouster of CEO Jeff Smisek.
Port Authority records show that Fox dined with Smisek, the Port Authority's then-chairman, David Samson, and other top Port Authority and United officials during the months when the airline was lobbying for items at the Newark airport.
Fox, who previously served as chief of staff and transportation commissioner in the McGreevey administration, said being transportation commissioner under governors from two parties "has been the best job I have ever had."
He planned to return to the private sector.
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