Louis Gambaccini (above) who helped create the NJ Transit agency and served as its first chairman during a transportation career that spanned over five decades, died at his home in Skillman, New Jersey, on Aug. 19. He was 87 years old.
“Lou Gambaccini’s dedication to transportation was in a class by itself,” noted New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, in a statement. “He served NJ Transit with distinction and helped initiate vital transportation solutions for the people of New Jersey. He will be missed.”
“It was Lou Gambaccini’s vision that the people of New Jersey needed a strong transportation system for their travel to work, appointments, and everyday life commitments,’’ added Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, NJDOT’s commissioner and chair of NJ Transit. “His leadership as the founding chairman of NJ Transit’s board of directors provided a stable, guiding path for everyone to follow and his dedication to excellence set the gold standard we all aspire to reach each and every day. His passing is a great loss.”
Armed with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs from Syracuse University, Gambaccini spent the bulk of his career – some 32 years – with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with 20 years of them serving as vice president and general manager and other senior positions overseeing the Port Authority Trans Hudson Corporation, followed by an eight-year stint as general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.
In 1978, Gambaccini began a three-year term as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, where he helped create the NJ Transit agency on July 17, 1979, for which he served as chairman of the board from 1979 to 1981.
In 1983, Gambaccini founded and served as the first chairman for the Council for Excellence in Government, a national advocacy organization. Later on, in 1997, he was recruited by Rutgers University to administer the federally funded National Transit Institute and established the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, including the founding of a new research institute – the Voorhees Transportation.
He also chaired a number of professional organizations, including The Transportation Research Board’s executive committee, the American Public Transportation Association and the former Tri-State Regional Planning Committee.
“It is truly sad to hear of the passing of Lou Gambaccini,” noted said NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett in a statement. “Lou was a strong advocate for an improved public transportation system and his 50-plus years in the industry serve as an inspiration for all of us to elevate the standards of public service. There will never be another person like Lou Gambaccini.”