NJ Transit delays to be probed by Senate committee
The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a rare summer hearing Monday morning to discuss transportation issues that continue to snarl the state.
The major topic expected to be addressed is rail tunnel repairs that stopped NJ Transit commuter rail service in late July and plans for a new Gateway rail tunnel.
"Recently we've seen some real chaos in our transportation systems particularly those linking New Jersey to New York. NJ Transit riders have been suffering very onerous delays in their commutes and things could be getting much worse if the existing tunnels that carry the trains to New York need to close," said Committee Chairman Senator Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn).
Among those expected to testify include officials from Amtrak.
Gordon said another hearing will be scheduled for September. He said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox and NJ Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim are expected to testify.
Tunnels that are over 100 years old carry 90,000 New Jerseyans a day to and from New York City, and Gordon said he wanted to know what kind of contingency plans there are if one or more of the tunnels has to be closed.
Replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), which is on pace to run out of money on June 30, 2016, is also expected to come up during Monday's hearing.
"That has to be part of any discussion about investing in infrastructure in New Jersey. Of course the challenge is to find a way of funding those projects. Historically it's been through a gas tax, but I don't see much interest in raising a gas tax, certainly before the elections," Gordon said.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), the committee's vice chair, said the two hearings would also focus on NJ Transit's operating budget needs going into the next fiscal year.
"Bus and rail fares are already going up an average of 9 percent in October to cover a $56 million NJ Transit operating deficit for this budget year, and we're concerned that NJ Transit has another deficit looming next year when $295 million in NJ Turnpike money that has been used to cover NJ Transit operations is scheduled to go away," Weinberg said in an emailed press release.