TRENTON – In the midst of shining positivity from other members on the Senate Judiciary Committee here today, State Sen. Mike Doherty sat unfazed by Jamie Fox — Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee to be the next commissioner of the Department of Transportation — and his long resume of politicking in New Jersey and elsewhere.
Doherty ultimately joined his fellow Senate Judiciary Committee members in voting aye to move Fox, but not without a round of pointed questions.
The Republican senator grilled the former DOT commissioner, Chief of Staff to Jim McGreevey, and longtime Democratic political operative, on a number of issues — from the cost overruns at projects at the Port Authority to the primary concern of the day, the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund.
“What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?,” asked Doherty, seemingly unimpressed after rattling off Fox’s employment history, to which Fox quipped: “I’ve been around the block.”
Doherty later decried transportation building costs in the state — which, according to some estimates, far exceed the national average for roadway construction in the country.
“We heard a lot about how New Jersey is highly populated which could lead to the higher costs, but New York is also pretty densely populated and they’re only 2.6 times higher, and we’re 8.4,” Doherty said. “This is out of control. You have to admit this is out of control, I mean we have to do better. “
Fox said small changes can be made to the way the state approaches roadway construction that could decrease costs.
Doherty also questioned costs overruns at One World Trade Center, a project Fox initially oversaw during his time as DOT commissioner under McGreevey.
“If you go down to Ground Zero, and the Port Authority could be criticized for a lot of things, but what they’ve done in a 10 year period from complete destruction to those buildings … is really quite remarkable,” Fox said.
Most members of the committee praised the Fox for his background. Doherty expressed some skepticism.
“I can’t say there’s not a little bit of disappointment in not having someone with closer ties to the Republican Party, but I support the nomination” Doherty said later before ultimately supporting the nominee.