Former New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne died on Thursday, January 4th at the age of 93. He was a Democrat and his party controlled the legislature, but he presided over contentious politics while he was in office from 1974 until 1982. He was known for building the Meadowlands stadium, protecting the Pinelands, facilitating voter registration and surviving the imposition of the state income tax, but we remember him for the Transportation Act of 1979, which established New Jersey Transit.


At that time, New Jersey's trains were operated by Conrail, through the Commuter Operating Agency at the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The service was in crisis, with operational and funding difficulties. Bus service in the state was under threat, too. Former Senator Francis X. Herbert, who sponsored the legislation, praised Byrne for fighting hard against strong opposition to get the transit bill passed. It was a hard fight, and the legislation that established NJT passed by only one vote.