Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that he has picked Kevin Corbett, a top executive at a global engineering firm, to turn around NJ Transit, the state’s beleaguered bus and rail system.
Murphy introduced Corbett as his nominee for executive director of NJ Transit during a news conference in a New Brunswick train station. Corbett, vice president of cross services at AECOM, would be in charge of fixing an agency plagued by delays, safety and staffing issues. The agency’s board of directors must approve the nomination.
“In a state that is full of tough jobs, Kevin is certainly taking on one of the toughest: turning around New Jersey Transit and making it a system that commuters can rely on for safe, convenient and on-time travel,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, right now, too many commuters don’t consider NJ Transit any of those things.”
Once a model transportation agency, NJ Transit has suffered from frequent delays and several accidents in recent years—including the fatal 2016 crash in Hoboken—all while fares have increased 36 percent since 2009, according to Murphy’s office.
The agency has been deeply underfunded for years, with millions of dollars diverted from capital funding projects to cover the cost of its operations. The railroad is also at risk of failing to meet a federal deadline to install Positive Train Control, a system designed to prevent collisions and high-speed derailments.
The governor has called NJ Transit a “national disgrace.”
At AECOM, Corbett oversaw regional projects such as restoration of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson system after Superstorm Sandy, the first phase of New York City’s Second Avenue Subway project and the Gateway Project, a proposed rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Before AECOM, Corbett was chief operating officer and executive vice president of Empire State Development Corporation.
In brief remarks, Corbett said NJ Transit needs to “rebuild a professional, motivated and accountable team.”
“The governor mentioned he would not accept the status quo. Neither will New Jersey commuters, frankly, and I certainly don’t intend to either,” he said.
Murphy signed an executive order last week mandating a “full-scale” audit of NJ Transit, including its finances, leadership structure, hiring process and customer service.
Murphy said he hopes President Trump talks about the federal government’s role in infrastructure during his State of the Union address Tuesday night and said Trump must recommit to funding the Gateway Tunnel project. The Trump administration is not recognizing a deal reached in 2015 that called for the federal government to cover half of the project’s cost.
“We desperately need a partner with this administration, with the leadership in Congress to get the big projects done that are very relevant,” Murphy said.