On Twitter, a Bergen Record story about who gets the blame for New Jersey Transit woes is getting plaudits from former Gov. Chris Christie and slammed by a top aide to Gov. Phil Murphy.
Murphy’s side – and others – are criticizing Digger Racioppi’s reporting, which come after his newspaper “analyzed documents from budgets, the Treasury Department and a leading transportation advocacy group, and corresponded with Christie and officials in the Murphy administration.”
Christie tweeted that Racioppi “does a good job separating Murphy fiction on NJ Transit funding from real facts.”
“State aid to NJ Transit went UP 54.6% in our 8 years & Murphy has expanded the very budget practices he criticized during the campaign,” Christie said. “Glad the truth is coming out.”
Dan Bryan, a senior advisor to Murphy, called Racioppi’s article “truly bizarre” and suggested that a better headline would have been, “Murphy’s NJT subsidies up and diversions down, but the jobs isn’t done yet”
“This article does a fine job of attempting to rehabilitate Governor Christie’s failed legacy at New Jersey Transit,” Bryan said on Twitter.
He said The Record’s story had a “bit of an oversight” on the facts.
“Governor Christie ignored PTC (Positive Train Control) for years, a massive dereliction of duty, leaving Governor Murphy to take the installation project from 12% –after six years– to 100% in less than a year,” Bryan said. “Further testing & installations are still affecting service.
According to Bryan, Christie “inherited an engineering corps topping 400 and left one around 320.”
“We’re still digging out of that hole, and it’s still the biggest driver of delays and cancellations,” Bryan tweeted. Comparing service from 2017 to 2019 without the context of PTC or engineer issues is flat out misleading to the public.”
Bryan also pointed out a “small but of missing context.”
“We’d have an ARC tunnel today if not for Governor Christie. That disastrous decision will hamper NJT service for years to come,” he said. “But please, by all means, take his NJT spin at face value.
That caused News 12 New Jersey’s Brian Donohue to weigh in.
“I think about this all the time,” Donohue wrote. “Commute from my town to NYC would’ve been cut significantly.”
Sal Rizzo, a former New Jersey statehouse reporter who now writes for the Washington Post Fact Checker, noted that the “ARC tunnel would be open by now had Christie not killed it during the Tea Party-mania years.”
“That disastrous decision will hamper NJT service for years to come,” Rizzo tweeted.
Bill Brennan, a Christie critic and former gubernatorial candidate, also bashed the former governor’s record on public transit issues.
“Imagine how reliable our cooling stock would be if you hadn’t appointed an unqualified hack who submerged millions of dollars worth of equipment during Sandy,” Brennan said on Twitter. “You accused a low level manager of making this decision, then said he wasn’t punished due to civil service, lie on lie.”
Murphy’s staff wasn’t the only one who disagreed with the perspective of Racioppi’s story.
“Problem is that Dustin’s reporting is undermined by this horrendously erroneous chart,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
John Reitmeyer, a former Bergen Record reporter and editor who now works with New Jersey Network, defended Racioppi’s story.
“There is nothing bizarre about challenging the things people in the highest of offices say in a fair and professional manner. It’s our job,” Reitmeyer said. “So is providing the context and nuance that is often missed in reporting on this incredibly important issue of NJ Transit funding.”
Bryan responded that he agreed, but that “critical context and nuance was sorely lacking.”
“Great job on the whitewash,” Bryan said of Christie’s tweet.
He suggested that Racioppi ask Christie about the ARC tunnel, positive train control and transit engineers the next time they speak about public transportation.
“But it’s great to hear Governor Christie’s thoughts on how to run NJT,” Bryan said. “I’m now reaching out to Rich Kotite to get his thoughts on how to run the Jets.”
Kotite was head coach of the Jets 25 years ago when the NFL team went 1-15.