Lawmakers on Tuesday discussed the idea of merging embattled New Jersey Transit with other state agencies to save money to use for road, bridge and rail projects, and heard from experts about safety upgrades following a fatal rail accident in September.
The joint meeting of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee was the third to examine the agency’s finances and safety record.
Rail experts testified about a federally mandated automated safety system that has taken on urgency since a NJ Transit accident Sept. 29 in Hoboken that killed one person and injured more than 100 others.
Federal data show NJ Transit has had more accidents and paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the past five years, The Associated Press reported in October.
NJ Transit has until the end of 2018 to implement Positive Train Control. Carolyn Hayward-Williams, an expert from the nonprofit American Public Transport Association, told the hearing only five of 26 U.S. commuter railroads will have it in place by the end of this year.
Janna Chernetz of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy group, told committee members NJ Transit has transferred $7 billion intended for major capital projects since 1990 to plug gaps in its operating budget.
State Sens. Bob Gordon and John McKeon, both Democrats, said they hoped to have a report containing recommendations out by the spring.
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