Thursday, June 23, 2016
Happy 50th Birthday New Jersey DOT!
I was honored recently to take part in a festive 50th birthday celebration for my agency “alma mater,” the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The agency itself is older than that, but it was officially transformed from a highway department to a transportation department with enactment of the Transportation Act of 1966. (Legislative geeks may be interested to note that the 1966 act didn’t repeal the old highway department statute: it just added a new layer. The New Jersey transportation laws are like an archeological dig, with stratified layers telling ancient stories of old problems and policies.)
The highlight of the celebration was an appearance of 12 former commissioners and acting commissioners of the department, whose NJDOT history went back as far as the 1950s. The panel discussion of the 12 veterans included many reminiscences, a few revelations, and lots of expressions of warm feelings toward each other and toward the agency staff. I think it reaffirmed the view of many of us that this is an organization with a real heart and soul. Of course, the warm and fuzzies at any such celebration avoid a lot of the more painful episodes of the past, but on balance NJDOT has a lot to celebrate for the past 50 years and many exciting challenges to look forward to in the next 50!