UNION COUNTY, NJ – The Union County Freeholder Board is supporting reforms at NJ Transit and a proposed increase in funding for the state's transportation agency.

On Thursday night, the freeholder board unanimously approved a resolution “supporting an increase in funding for NJ Transit in this year’s New Jersey State budget to implement both the recommendations outlined in the North Highland Audit Report of NJ Transit and the changes mandated by the NJ Transit Reform bill.”

The resolution also urges Gov. Phil Murphy and the state legislature to “continue to push for reform at NJ Transit, including but not limited to, customer communication, a new procurement process and updated organizational structure, hiring of new staff to address a talent drain, and finding more sustainable operating revenue sources.”

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The North Highland Audit Report of NJ Transit, released last October, is a “comprehensive strategic, financial, and operational assessment of New Jersey Transit.”

“The purpose of the assessment is to provide insights and recommendations for defining and implementing a new target operating model to create a world-class transportation corporation,” according to the report, which was completed over a 100-day period. Governor Murphy signed an executive order in January 2018 calling for the audit.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Senate Bill S630, passed by the legislature in December, provides governance, oversight, and accountability reforms at NJT. The full bill text can be read here.

“We do support an increase in funding to New Jersey Transit, because New Jersey Transit is underfunded for many years, and anyone who takes the train or commutes knows that the trains and buses need an infusion of cash and personnel,” said Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski. “The governor is working on that with the legislature, and we support that.”

Kowalski said there is no dollar amount expressed in the resolution because the state budget has not yet been passed. She and the freeholder board have addressed several NJ Transit reforms in recent months.

“The freeholders have been involved with the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition,” Kowalski said. The RVRC is a bipartisan group dedicated to restoring a one-seat ride to Manhattan for commuters on the Raritan Valley Rail Line. Kowalski said the freeholder board also supports projects to improve Newark Penn Station and establish a one-platform transfer for Raritan Valley Line commuters at Newark.

As reported in February, Kowalski has expressed support for the Gateway Program, which is “a comprehensive rail investment program that would improve current services, add resiliency and create new capacity for a critical section of the Northeast Corridor,” according to the program’s official website.

The program’s Hudson Tunnel Project, which would involve the construction of two new Hudson River tunnels and rehabilitation of existing tunnels, is currently undergoing an environmental review process, the website says.

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