Jan. 08--The Florida railroad executive set to take the reins at the beleaguered Metro-North Railroad has a reputation for a more hands-on approach to railroad operations than his predecessor, officials, union leaders and others said Tuesday.
Palm Beach Mayor Steven L. Abrams, who oversees the board of Florida's Tri-Rail regional transit system, said the railroad's executive director, Joseph Giulietti, was an effective leader.
"We've had a very aggressive program to improve service and add more trains and he's really spearheaded it," Abrams said. "We're going to be sad to see him go, but I can understand why he'd want to run one of the biggest systems in the country."
Abrams confirmed Tuesday that Giulietti, 63, has given his notice to Tri-Rail that he has accepted an offer to become president at Metro-North Railroad in February. Tri-Rail's 70.9-mile commuter railroad links Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Fla.
Neither Metro-North's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, nor New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office confirmed Giulietti's appointment Tuesday, and Giulietti did not return calls for comment.
Abrams said Giulietti's most notable accomplishment in Florida is a $300 million-plus project to double-track the Tri-Rail line, which was completed in 2006. Ridership has nearly doubled since 2005 to more than 14,000 riders each weekday since then, according to the railroad.
"It's a new system and we've had to work to improve reliability of it over time," Abrams said. "He's done a great job."
The trade unions that represent Metro-North Railroad workers expressed confidence in the selection of Giulietti, a Connecticut native who has worked for Metro-North before.
"I have the highest respect for Joseph Giulietti, and he has an industrywide reputation as a great operational man," said Anthony Bottalico, the general chairman of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees. "He's more of a hands-on guy, I would say, and he has a real strength in everything that has to do with running the trains themselves."
'Good for us'
Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James A. Redeker said Giulietti's experience with the New Haven Line system and management experience with Metro-North earlier in his career would help ensure Giulietti could come up to speed quickly to improve rail service.
"He comes with a lot of experience of Connecticut and understands Connecticut's rail system so there won't be a big learning curve as to the history of the railroad," Redeker said. "He's a great choice and he'll be good for us."
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who has been highly critical of Metro-North recently, said he hoped new leadership hired from outside Metro-North might accelerate the railroad's work toward making necessary improvements to the system.
"New leadership can be a critically important and positive step if it means stronger attention to safety and reliability," Blumenthal said.
Current Metro-North President Howard Permut announced his retirement from the railroad Monday afternoon, one month after a high-speed derailment on a sharp curve in the Bronx, N.Y., killed four people and injured dozens of other passengers, some critically.
That crash followed a year of mishaps, beginning in May with a derailment of a Metro-North M8 train and collision with another in Bridgeport, injuring 76 people. Two weeks later, Robert Luden, a veteran track foreman was struck and killed by a train near the West Haven train station when an inexperienced rail traffic controller mistakenly opened a section of closed track. And in early fall, a massive power outage brought the New Haven Line between Stamford and New York to a standstill.
The events prompted federal investigators and other officials to question the management of the railroad.
Last month, after an NTSB investigation revealed the Bronx train was traveling at 82 mph entering the curve where the speed limit is 30, the Federal Railroad Administration started a 60-day intensive investigation into the safety and operating procedures of the railroad after the Bronx derailment.