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Kris Kolluri to manage NJ Turnpike
George Joseph in New York | April 12, 2007 02:46 IST
Kris Kolluri has a new job.
With additional charge as chair of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority entrusted to him, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri has become one of the most powerful people in the New Jersey state government.
No South Asian has reached the position he has in the state government.
Appointing Kolluri, Governor Jon Corzine said, 'Commissioner Kolluri is a talented and proven administrator, and as chair of these authorities he will be ideally situated to help us centralize our strategic transportation infrastructure program.'
Frank Spencer, the chairman, resigned his post to take a new position with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Corzine said.
Kolluri currently serves in an ex-officio capacity on both authorities.
His chairmanship would give Corzine a qualified pointman to pursue the leasing of the Atlantic City Expressway. The SJTA operates both the expressway and Atlantic City International Airport and finances transportation projects to spur economic development in southern New Jersey.
"The governor wanted to unify all transportation agencies under one umbrella, with one person directly dealing with it. States like Maryland have already implemented such programs successfully," Kolluri said, adding that this would help unify capital plans for all transportation sectors, such as roads, bridges, airport, rail and port facilities.
"A unified strategy will be more helpful to end the problems in the transpiration sector such as congestion," he said. New Jersey is one of the most congested states as regards traffic, but it has enormous growth possibilities.
The economy depends on the improvement of infrastructure. The state now deals with 800 million tons of freight; 4.7 million containers are handled through the ports and 76 billion miles are traveled on road, he said.
The talk of privatizing the New Jersey Turnpike has nothing to do with the new move, he said.
Kolluri said though he has four jobs he gets only one salary. "But it is a tremendous opportunity, which I could not even think of when I landed here 21 years ago," he said.
He said his immediate concern is to coordinate the work of all agencies to maximise the output. The transportation sector has to face long-term capital needs and a debt of $8.2 billion. Kolluri said there are plans to merge some agencies and their revenues and that the new set-up may take six months to a year to have an impact.
"I am very much focused on my family. With discipline, I can deal with the extra work," he said.
December 27, Kolluri, 38, officiated as state governor for a day, thus gaining the distinction of becoming the first Indian governor of any state.
Kolluri is also the first Indian American to hold a cabinet post in New Jersey. With 3,900 employees and a budget of $2.6 billion, the Department of Transportation is charged with the construction, operation, maintenance and management of the state's transportation infrastructure.
An attorney, he was chief of staff of the state transportation department before he was promoted to commissioner.
Kolluri brings 15 years of working in public office but says it was an accident he entered the public sector. In 1991, he joined as an intern in the office of Congressman Rob Andrews, (Democrat-New Jersey) and, fascinated by the job, decided to stay on in public service.