State Senate panel questions NJ transportation heads about funding
The heads of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and New Jersey Transit were on the hot seat Thursday afternoon during a hearing at the State House. This comes as Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget seeks modernization for the MVC and funding for NJ Transit.
Transportation Commissioner Dianne Gutierrez told the state Senate panel that traffic on New Jersey’s roads has almost fully recovered from the pandemic.
“Traffic on the state highway system is almost normal, and traffic on the toll roads is also close to returning entirely,” she said.
NJ Transit is receiving $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan and will spread it over four years to avoid a sudden decrease in funding next year.
“The federal funding is critical and that will get us through the pandemic for the next few years,” said NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett.
“We try to marry up this extraordinary critical funding to when we believe – we balanced out based on the return of our riders to transit,” Gutierrez said.
Murphy’s budget also contains a 9% funding increase for NJ Transit, with funds from the Turnpike Authority acting as a reliable funding source in perpetuity.
“Having that predictable dedicated funding stream is, you know, really the Golden Fleece,” Corbett said.
MVC administrator Sue Fulton defended her workers following major issues surrounding the agency during the pandemic.
“I’m not grading down my team when our facilities group worked day and night,” she said. “Those plexiglass barriers in our agencies, they got out ahead of the curve in March and we ordered plexiglass before there was a shortage. And they built them in our shop.”
But she gave the agency a grade of D or F in how it handled reopening the facilities last year.
“Customer service in the six months following our closure was unacceptable, and I would say even today it’s unacceptable for those customers who have an appointment canceled and aren’t able to get an appointment for weeks,” she said.
Fulton said her agency got through the backlog before last winter and that despite COVID-19-related closures, the MVC is now running smoothly.
“We’re not seeing any lines, so if you’re seeing a line at an agency, we’d ask you to reach out to us directly so we can figure out what’s going on,” she says.
Fulton has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as assistant secretary of defense for manpower and Reserve affairs. If Fulton is confirmed by the United States Senate, she would supervise the military’s Reserve forces, as well as the integration of the military Reserve forces and National Guard into one force.