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By Angela Cotey, associate editor
Early last month, New Jersey Transit Executive Director George Warrington announced he would step down at the end of March — the month that will mark his five-year anniversary as the agency’s head. But as of January’s end, he still wasn’t ready to talk publicly about his future plans.
“Once I know, I’ll let you know,” he said with a smile during an interview last month in his Newark, N.J., office.
Under Warrington’s leadership, NJ Transit has opened one and extended two light-rail lines, added trains system-wide and increased security post-9/11. But his biggest — and proudest — accomplishment is advancing the Access to the Region’s Core project (ARC), which includes building the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel beneath the Hudson River into Manhattan and a new station beneath 34th Street.
The project had been on the drawing board for decades, but when Warrington took the reins at NJ Transit in 2002, he made it a top priority.
“It was clear to me that we needed to further develop projects that will enable the region to compete in the next generation,” he says. “The centerpiece of that objective is the Access to the Region’s Core project.”
The project currently is in the preliminary engineering phase. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration gave NJ Transit approval to release the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, putting the agency one step closer to obtaining federal funding.
But projects haven’t been Warrington’s only focus. He’s been equally tuned in to day-to-day operations, striving to maintain a high on-time performance, improve customer service and keep the system in a state of good repair.
“We’ve been diligent about making sure that our core operation continues to receive the right level of attention and that we’re not sacrificing our state of good repair at the expense of major projects,” Warrington says.
Because operations are running smoothly and the ARC project is advancing, he admits it’ll be tough to leave. There are sentimental reasons why it’ll be hard for the New Jersey native to move on, too.
“I was involved in the creation of New Jersey Transit, I spent the early part of my career here, I watched it grow and now I’ve had five very good years here,” he says.
Warrington began his career with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) in the mid-1970s. After joining NJ Transit in 1980, he served the agency for 10 years, rising to vice president and general manager of rail operations. In 1990, he left the agency to serve stints as deputy commissioner of NJDOT, executive director of the Delaware River Port Authority and Port Authority Transit Corp., and president of Amtrak.
The search is on for his successor. Last month, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine established a seven-member committee to conduct a national search for the next executive director.
He or she will need to continue balancing daily operations and project development without losing momentum on either front, says Warrington.
More changes at the top
NJ Transit isn’t the only Northeast U.S. transit agency in the midst of a leadership change.
Last month, MTA New York City Transit President Lawrence Reuter resigned to join Parsons Brinckerhoff in one of the firm’s Florida offices; The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which oversees the Port Authority Trans-Hudson system — named Anthony Shorris executive director for the second time; and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority swore in former Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Deputy CEO John Catoe, Jr. as the D.C. agency’s new GM.