Sure, there's very little chance of state lawmakers approving and Gov. Chris Christie signing a bill that would take appointments to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey out of the hands of the governor and the Senate.

But you have to start somewhere.

And a proposal by state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, to replace New Jersey's gubernatorial nominees to the bi-state agency with commissioners nominated by public-interest groups is a good place to start.

The Port Authority is at the center of the Bridgegate scandal, in which deliberate traffic tie-ups on the George Washington Bridge were apparently used for political retribution by members of the Christie administration.

New York's commissioners on the Port Authority have suggested reforming the agency, as did the Bridgegate report issued last week by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, hired by Christie to investigate the scandal.

No wonder.

David Wildstein, a Christie appointee with zero transportation experience, resigned when details began to come out about the lane closings he ordered on the bridge.

David Samson, who resigned Friday as Port Authority chairman, is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office over allegations that he used his position at the authority to benefit his law firm's clients.

Even before these scandals, the authority had a reputation for secrecy and unaccountability. And, like other authorities and boards in the state, its well-paid appointees often have little expertise in the subject at hand, but are loyal to the governors or senators who got them these positions.

Lesniak's idea is to replace Christie's appointees to the authority with nominees from the public-interest transportation groups New Jersey Future, the Regional Plan Association and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

And while lawmakers are talking about reforms, there's no reason to stop at one agency. The Delaware River and Bay Authority and the Delaware River Port Authority would benefit from the same kind of housecleaning.

There has to be a better way to make sure these authorities are more concerned with improving transportation than they are with following the orders of the power brokers who appointed them and providing cash for their pet projects.

Maybe that way is Lesniak's idea, or maybe it's following the lead of New York, where a law requires board members of state authorities to serve the mission of the authority rather than any political agenda.

New Jersey residents should be demanding reform, and Lesniak's proposal may help build the groundswell for that effort.

Yes, it's a long shot, but some windmills are worth tilting at.

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