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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rell taps rail expert to become DOT chief

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor

Connecticut’s transportation system would go in a new direction under the transportation commissioner nominated Tuesday by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Joseph F. Marie of Scottsdale, Ariz., is director of operations and maintenance for the regional public transit system for the METRO light-rail system in Phoenix. He has 22 years of mass-transit experience, primarily in rail systems, according to a statement issued by Rell’s office.
“Joseph Marie is a seasoned, proven administrator with a strong background in public transit, which really is the future of transportation in Connecticut,” Rell said. “Reforming and refocusing the DOT continues to be one of my top priorities.
“We all understand what is at stake and what is required. We know that a modern, integrated transportation system of roads, rails and airports is fundamental to a strong economy,” Rell said.
Rell added that Marie “has the vision, organizational skills and experience” for the job.
Marie’s most recent project was directing the startup of a $1.4 billion, 20-mile light-rail system through Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe, which is scheduled to open later this year.
Marie has held senior transit positions in Minneapolis, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and has worked in private industry.
He would succeed H. James Boice, who has served as interim chief of the DOT since Ralph J. Carpenter retired in December.
“I am eager to work with the talented, dedicated employees of the Connecticut DOT,” Marie said in the release.
Marie could not be reached for comment.
“I have a deep appreciation of the challenges they face,” Marie said. “I know how important it is to succeed — and I know by working together and by listening and leading that we can accomplish our important mission of transforming the delivery of transportation services in Connecticut.”
Marie will move to a state with major needs in both mass transit and highway infrastructure, including recent revelations that a planned rail-maintenance facility in New Haven will cost triple its original budget.
The state is dealing with major highway issues, including a lack of bids to build a new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and construction flaws in an Interstate 84 widening project.
State Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the General Assembly Transportation Committee, said he expected Marie’s lack of highway experience would surface during nomination hearings.
“I think that with the proper surroundings that will be around him … I think that Connecticut will do fine,” Guerrera said. He added, “We need somebody with some rail experience to move Connecticut to that next leap.”
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, who is chairman of the METRO board, called Marie “the best of the best.” Simplot said Marie is highly competent as well as a great manager.
“He is one of those rare people who truly can cover all aspects of the job,” Simplot said. Simplot said he was not concerned about Marie’s lack of highway experience. “Given the breadth of his experience, he’ll get the job done,” he said.
Marie has worked for rail equipment manufacturers Bombardier and Siemens. A Massachusetts native, he earned a master’s degree at Pennsylvania State University.
“Joe not only understands the vital importance of building a comprehensive and integrated system of transportation infrastructure and services, he has spent his career implementing and managing those systems,” Rell said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@nhregister.com or 789-5743.

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