NJ.com- Steven H. Santoro was named executive director of NJ Transit Thursday and was immediately given a homework assignment by his boss – return in 30 days with a report on where the agency stands on implementing a train control system that some experts say may have prevented a fatal train crash last month in Hoboken.
"I would like you to take a renewed focus on safety and the completion of Positive Train Control, and work on the Hudson (River) Tunnels," Acting Transportation Commissioner Richard Hammer said after NJ Transit's board unanimously voted to appoint Santoro.
NJ Transit and other railroads face a 2018 federal deadline to install PTC, which slows or stops a train if the engineer fails to obey signals or speed limits. However, a federal report on PTC progress said NJ Transit lags behind other railroads.
"There are challenges to face as we go forward," Santoro said. "We have to get our focus back. We have a fair amount of work to do."
While nothing was said about a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report issued Thursday morning about the Sept. 29 train crash, Santoro said he was ready to meet the challenges facing the beleaguered agency and to carry out Hammer's directives.
Santoro, 63, who has worked for NJ Transit since August 2000, will earn a salary of $210,000, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. The rest of his compensation package and benefits are being negotiated. He has served for nine years as assistant executive director of Capital Planning and Programs, overseeing the annual $1.2 billion capital program, including the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
He has served for nine years as assistant executive director of Capital Planning and Programs, overseeing the annual $1.2 billion capital program, including the start-up of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
Santoro replaces Dennis Martin, a 32-year veteran, who headed NJ Transit's bus operations, and has been interim executive director for the past 10 months, after Veronique Hakim left the post to run NYC Transit and appointee William Crosbie declined the job in April.
NJ Transit board members present praised Martin for guiding the agency through a blizzard, two potential rail strikes, a papal visit and for his work as director of bus operations to cut down on commuter wait times in the Port Authority bus terminal. Hammer called Martin's accomplishments "truly remarkable."
"It's been a tough ride for you, but it's been a honor and privilege to work with you," said Board Member Ray Greaves, who leads the agency's bus employee union.