Murphy chooses ex-Turnpike boss for DOT

Former New Jersey Turnpike Authority Executive Director Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, current director of Florida’s Turnpike system, was nominated Wednesday as Department of Transportation commissioner by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy.

This marks the sixth position, fifth woman and second Latina that Murphy has chosen to fill his cabinet.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti retired from NJTP in 2010.

State Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) credited her with working on the Turnpike extension that has helped spur growth in logistics in the state.

“Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti’s 22 years of experience at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority equips her with a critical understanding of important issues facing the Department of Transportation. She was fully involved in the planning for the Turnpike expansion that has made logistics the fastest-growing sector of New Jersey’s economy,” Gordon said in a statement. “As chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee that has held extensive hearings on NJ Transit, the Gateway rail tunnels and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I understand that the challenges the new transportation commissioner will face in improving mass transit are even larger than those she will face in repairing our crumbling roads and bridges.”

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said Gutierrez-Scaccetti had a tough road ahead.

“Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti will be taking on awesome responsibilities to find ways to improve our neglected transportation infrastructure and to help a new NJ Transit executive director rebuild the largest state mass transit agency in the nation. She will need to take a lead role in pushing for completion of the Gateway Rail Tunnel project and expanding our bus fleet in conjunction with the expansion of capacity at the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” Weinberg said. “The Senate has played a lead role on a bipartisan basis in transportation policy, including passage of an eight-year, $2 billion a year Transportation Trust Fund that will give the new transportation commissioner the stable source of funding she needs for long-term planning. Her 22 years at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will give her valuable insights into New Jersey’s transportation needs.”

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) also touted her experience as an asset to helping the state address its transportation woes.

“The DOT commissioner must serve as CEO of the Department of Transportation and a hawk over operations at NJ Transit, but also as a forceful advocate for New Jersey’s interests in seeking our fair share from the federal government and from bistate agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” Sarlo said. “We don’t have the luxury of having someone learn on the job, and I’m confident that Diane can hit the ground running on day one.”

Continuing a trend to appoint a diverse cabinet, and fulfilling a campaign promise, Murphy’s pick has also been applauded by the Hispanic business community.

“We are very optimistic with Gov.-elect Murphy’s commitment to bringing experienced leaders that can tackle the current challenges our transportation and infrastructure systems face. Ms. Gutierrez not only possesses the knowledge and experience, but she also reflects the diversity that the State of New Jersey has,” said Carlos Medina, chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.