WOOD-RIDGE − At an NJ Transit maintenance facility here Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy and state transit officials highlighted additional funding for NJ Transit in their proposed budget for 2020.
"An investment in NJ Transit is an investment in building a more secure middle class, in making us more competitive, and it’s strengthening our future," Murphy said.
The budget, announced Tuesday in Trenton in an address to the state Assembly, would bring NJ Transit's yearly budget for 2020 to $407.5 million.
That includes $100 million more for NJ Transit than last year's budget. And $75 million of the funding would simply replace dollars currently paid out by the NJ Turnpike Authority and NJ Transit capital funds.
Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic, said they want to ensure some of the new funds go to bolstering the Atlantic City Rail Line, which has been shut down since September for federally mandated safety installations, but will return May 24.
“As the Governor laid out his proposals for investments in NJ Transit yesterday, he failed to mention the elephant in the room; the Atlantic City Rail Line remains closed,” Mazzeo said. “His intent to invest in NJ Transit is certainly a good first step. But I will fight to ensure some of that investment goes toward the AC Rail Line once it’s reopened, and the citizens of Atlantic County who’ve suffered without the train for the better part of a year."
NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett and Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti were among those gathered with union workers Wednesday.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the diversions, which would save other state agencies $75 million, are a testament to the state's commitment to holistic health of transportation infrastructure and service across the board.
"The elimination of diversion funding acknowledges the importance of New Jersey’s entire transportation infrastructure network," Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. "So as much as we could give money from those agencies to transit, our busses still need to run on our road system and those road systems are maintained by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the toll roads."
Murphy noted the sorry shape of the agency before he took office last January and Corbett took the helm of the agency.
“Customers became second class citizens," Murphy said. "Fares rose, while services eroded. The ranks of rail engineers were so thinned out that NJ Transit was left with little or no back-up abilities.”
He acknowledged that Monday's cancellations were a high-profile example that the problems are ongoing. The agency has lost 866 employees since February of last year, according to NJ.com, but there are six classes of new engineers training at the moment.
Murphy said the fresh investment would be a step to getting the agency on "firm financial footing."