Today’s news:

LIRR president appointed temporary director of MTA

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams has been appointed temporary head of the MTA pending appointment of a replacement for Elliot Sander.

Williams will temporarily succeed Sander, who resigned last month, the day following the legislative action that will provide a revenue stream for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is in serious financial straits.

Williams will also continue her duties at the LIRR while serving as interim MTA CEO and executive director.

Sander, after two years as MTA chief, announced his resignation following Gov. David Paterson’s remarks hailing the legislative action in which he said, “We are going to have a clean−up and a clean−out at the MTA.”

Both Paterson and several legislative leaders had criticized the MTA, blaming the agency’s leaders for its problems, including the crushing debt the MTA faces.

Paterson will appoint Sander’s permanent successor and then the state Assembly and state Senate must decide whether to give its approval.

“I am honored to be asked to step in temporarily — pending approval of the MTA board — to serve in this position while continuing my duties as president of the Long Island Rail Road,” Williams said.

“As we all know, the subway, bridges, tunnels and commuter rail lines are the lifeblood of our city and entire New York metropolitan region,” Williams said. “I have spent much of my career at MTA, so this will be an exciting challenge.”

Williams, educated as a labor lawyer and a graduate of the St. John’s University School of Law, served as president of the Long Island Bus Co. and has been with the MTA for 15 years.

Under her leadership, the LIRR last year set an all−time record for on−time performance.

Williams also served as a deputy county executive under Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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