- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The man picked to lead New Jersey Transit decided he does not want the job, just days before he was scheduled to start running the nation’s third-busiest commuter railroad amid a looming budget deficit.

Former Amtrak executive William Crosbie changed his mind because of concerns over relocating his family from Virginia, the state transportation department said Thursday. He was scheduled to start on Monday.

“He told me face-to-face he was going to take the job, so I’m disappointed that he’s had a change of heart,” Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday. “Better he have second thoughts on someone else’s dime and not the New Jersey taxpayers’ dime. I just wish that when you say you accept the job and you look somebody in the eye, I think it’s important that you keep your word.”

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Richard Hammer said in a statement that the decision came as a surprise because of the “level of mutual enthusiasm we both shared when he accepted the offer.”

The former chief operating officer at Amtrak oversaw areas including transportation, infrastructure and security. Most recently, Crosbie has served as president and CEO for Systra USA, an international engineering consulting firm.

Dennis Martin, the agency’s general manager of bus operations, will continue as interim executive director.

NJ Transit’s board on April 6 unanimously approved Crosbie as executive director to replace Ronnie Hakim, who left last fall to take a job at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Crosbie could not immediately be reached for comment.

His decision comes as the agency looks to close a $45 million gap in its operating budget.

NJ Transit recently reached agreement with about a dozen rail worker unions who had been working without a contract for nearly five years.

Martin recently told the state Senate Budget Committee that despite earlier comments by NJ Transit that the costs of a new labor deal could force another fare increase - fares were hiked last year for the fifth time since 2002 - the agency wasn’t planning to raise fares. He also said NJ Transit doesn’t plan service cuts or layoffs to shrink the budget gap.

“We are monitoring our receipts and reimbursements and looking at cost efficiencies,” Martin said.

NJ Transit provides more than 200 million passenger trips annually on bus, rail and light rail lines. More than 100,000 people use NJ Transit trains to commute from New Jersey into New York City daily.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Crosbie’s decision Thursday.

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