By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey Transit's chief resigned after stumbles following the Super Bowl and Superstorm Sandy, the latest transportation official appointed by Governor Chris Christie to leave.
James Weinstein, appointed by Christie in 2010, will leave office on March 2, the agency said Wednesday. The governor's office announced his resignation on Tuesday but did not give a reason for his departure as head of the nation's third largest mass transit agency.
NJ Transit runs a rail network and buses that enable commuters to get to jobs across the state and in Philadelphia and New York.
Weinstein was heavily criticized for poor planning during the Super Bowl, in which thousands of passengers were left stranded, and Superstorm Sandy, when commuter train cars were parked in an area that was later flooded by the storm.
He steps down less than three weeks after complaints surfaced about the planning and execution of mass transit during the February 2 Super Bowl in East Rutherford. Super Bowl attendees heeded recommendations that they take trains and buses to the game, but NJ Transit greatly underestimated ridership, leaving thousands delayed getting to the game and then stranded for hours trying to get home.
Weinstein's leadership also came under fire after it was revealed NJ Transit left a third of its fleet in low-lying railyards during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, resulting in $120 million worth of damage to train cars and equipment. A New Jersey State Senate panel has called for an investigation into why the fleet was not moved to higher ground.
Weinstein will be replaced by Veronique Hakim, currently executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
His departure marks the third resignation submitted by a top Christie appointee at a state transportation agency amid controversy over his job handling. Late last year, two officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state agency that oversees bridges and airports, resigned after questions emerged about last-minute lane closures that led to a massive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge.
One of the Port Authority officials to step down, David Wildstein, orchestrated the lane closures with the help of two of Christie's inner circle apparently as political punishment for a Democratic mayor who did not endorse the governor's re-election.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jonathan Oatis)