Governor Andrew Cuomo's pick to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially became the agency's chairman on Monday.
State senators in Albany unanimously confirmed Joseph Lhota as the MTA chairman, following his receiving approval from the senate's Fiance and Transportation Committees.
Lhota was named interim chairman in October, replacing the outgoing Jay Walder.
He will oversee the agency's $12.6 billion budget for 2012, which does not call for fare hikes or service cuts.
Previously, he said there will likely be fare increases in 2013 and 2015.
"I'm very pleased and honored by the actions of the State Senate in confirming me to become the chairman and the CEO of the MTA," said Lhota on Monday. "I'm looking forward to this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers, not just throughout the lower part of the state, but the entire state, since so many of our buses and subway cars are actually made in upstate New York. So I accept the challenge and I'm looking forward."
The new chairman said he will focus on closing the MTA's nearly $10 billion budget gap, and will try to convince 34,000 transport workers to agree to a new union contract without a wage increase.
"His biggest challenge right up front, I believe, is the contract expiring next week," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Lhota would not comment on the contract talks but did express hope that an agreement can be reached by next Sunday.
As for New York City projects, Lhota told the Finance and Transportation Committees that he is overseeing four major capital projects. They include East Side Access for the Long Island Rail Road, the Second Avenue subway line's construction, the Fulton transit center in Lower Manhattan and the extension of the number 7 line to Manhattan's far West Side.
"Whatever development happens on the West Side, the extension of the number 7 train is going to be very, very important," said Lhota.
In his State of of the State address last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for new development in the West Side, including repurposing the Jacob Javits Center to make way for a new convention center in Queens. The extension of the 7 line could augment the governor's plan.
The 7 extension is expected be completed in the next year-and-a-half.
"The extension of the 7 line is on budget and coming in earlier," said Lhota. "The East Side Access is over budget and has been slowed down by actions directly taken by Amtrak. We share some of the yards and some of the tunnels with them."
Lhota will serve through 2015 and said in Monday's hearing that he plans to stay through his full term and perhaps even beyond. To do that, he will have to be reappointed by Cuomo or whoever is elected governor in 2014.
A former deputy mayor of operations under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Lhota was Giuliani's appointee to the MTA Board from 1999 to 2001.