Gov. Dannel P. Malloy bobbed and weaved a bit Monday when asked about his inability to find a permanent transportation commissioner, but the answer to the question may have been right behind him: the interim chief, James Redeker.
Malloy acknowledges he has developed a solid relationship with Redeker, 57, a New Jersey transit official who came to the DOT two years ago to oversee mass transit operations. But the governor has not entirely given up on a renewed national search.
“I’ve been very comfortable in my working relationship” with Redeker, Malloy said late Monday afternoon after a speech in Southington. “In acknowledging that, I’m not trying to push this one way or another. I’m not there yet.”
An initial national search for a transportation star, someone who can broaden the vision of the DOT to encompass smart-growth planning and economic development, is inactive.
Redeker was at a press conference earlier Monday when Malloy announced he was reviving planning for an old highway project: the completion of Route 11 through eastern Connecticut. The process will take 2½ years.
At the news conference, Malloy was flippant when pressed about his search for a DOT commissioner.
“Oh, we’ll definitely have one within 2½ years,” he said.
Redeker plans on remaining at DOT if a permanent commissioner is named. He would return to the job that attracted him to Connecticut in the first place: overseeing mass transit.
The ideal resume for a DOT commissioner in Malloy’s view includes experience with mass transit, a discipline that has taken a back seat to highways in most of the department’s history.
Nearly 80 percent of commuters travel alone to their jobs in Connecticut, with 8.4 percent using car pools and 4.1 percent taking the train or the bus.
So, what does Malloy want in a DOT commissioner?
“I want somebody who can control DOT, to give it a form of discipline that it has not in my opinion been experiencing of late. I’d like to see costs come down. I’d like to see DOT move more rapidly.”
Malloy, who spent 14 years as mayor of Stamford watching traffic congestion choke Fairfield County, also wants a commissioner capable of getting more commuters out of their cars, off I-95 and into car pools or public transportation.
“I want to make sure the agency is transit friendly, as transit friendly as possible, particularly with regards to answering some of the concerns in our most congested areas,” he said.
Then-Commissioner Joseph Marie hired Redeker in late 2008 to run the Buruea of Public Transporation, which oversees two train lines, Metro-North and Shoreline East, and a network of buses.
Connecting New Haven and Fairfield County with metropolitan New York, Metro-North is one of the nation’s busiest train systems.
Redeker was one of the first employees of New Jersey Transit, which was created in 1979 and is now the third largest transit agency in the nation. He left the agency after 30 years as vice president of technology services, with experience in strategic planning and transit-friendly development.