DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie resigns to spend more time with family, Rell reports

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie resigned today, and will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Parker, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced this morning.

In a written statement, the governor’s office indicated Marie resigned “to pursue long-term employment opportunities and spend more time with his family.”

“I thank Joe Marie for his service to the state of Connecticut and wish him well as he pursues other opportunities. Joe made a significant contribution to DOT over the last two years and his leadership will be missed,” said Rell, who is not seeking re-election and whose term ends in early January. “I have full confidence that Jeff Parker will continue moving the DOT in the dynamic new direction that I have set.”

Rell announced Marie’s hiring in April 2008, hailing his more than 22 years of transit industry experience in both the public and private sectors. Marie was director of operations and maintenance for a regional public transit system in Phoenix, Ariz., when hired by Rell. He previously held senior transit posts for the states of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and had been assistant general manager for a metro transit operation in Minneapolis.

During his tenure Marie has overseen an embattled transportation department struggling with limited state and federal funding amid a global recession.

Headquartered in Newington, the DOT is one of state government’s largest agencies with nearly 3,400 employees and a $516.9 million annual budget. It is responsible for the construction and maintenance of major Connecticut roads, highways and bridges, and the state’s public transit system. The DOT also oversees commuter and freight rail lines, shoreline ports and piers, ferries and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.

In a report issued earlier this year, the department projected a $926.4 million gap between the cost of planned highway, bridge and transit projects for the next five years, and the level of anticipated funding available.

Further complicating matters, nearly 60 percent of the roughly $1.5 billion state government has collected from the wholesale fuel tax since the 2005-06 fiscal year has been spent outside of the Special Transportation Fund, according to budget records. A $1.1 billion component within an overall state budget of $19.01 for new fiscal year that starts Thursday, the fund is backed largely by state fuel tax revenues and federal grants, and is a primary source of funding for transportation network maintenance and new construction.

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projected in a May report that the fund would fall into deficit, about $42.2 million, by 2011-12. That same report projected the general fund, which represents more than 90 percent of the total budget, faces a $3.37 billion built-in shortfall in 12 months.

The General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee launched a study earlier this summer to identify ways to get state transportation projects done quicker and under budget.

A spokesman for the union representing about 1,000 unionized engineers, planners, safety analysts and inspectors at the department, Matt O’Connor, recently called the DOT “ripe for reform.”

Parker, a Newington native, joined the DOT in 2008 after a successful tenure as senior director of transportation operations at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. A graduate of Northeastern University of Boston, Parker also worked for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority where he oversaw project management, safety and operations control.

“Deputy Commissioner Parker brings a wealth of experience in mass transit and commuter rail to which we are committed. I fully expect a seamless transition at DOT as we move forward with our goals,” Rell said.