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New York area transportation agencies announce leadership changes

NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Officials at New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced leadership appointments on Thursday as the agency embarks on an emergency plan to fix New York City's subway system, the country's largest.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who took the helm in June, said Patrick Foye would join the agency as president after Foye leaves his position as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Aug. 14.

Lhota also said long-time transit official Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim, who had been the MTA's interim executive director, would be named managing director.

Foye and Hakim will be charged with implementing an $836 million plan announced July 25 by Lhota to stabilize the New York City's unreliable and dirty subways, which have increasingly faced delays because of failing World War Two-era signaling systems.

"Pat and Ronnie will assume the day-to-day leadership of the MTA and ensure that our customers are always our first priority," Lhota said in a statement.

Separately, Foye's replacement at the Port Authority, Rick Cotton, was approved by the authority's board during a Thursday meeting. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's special counsel, Cotton has overseen some of the governor's highest profile infrastructure projects.

In 2011, Cuomo appointed Foye to the authority, where he oversaw the agency's recovery from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Foye helped lead the authority to new forms of financing for big projects, particularly public-private partnerships being used for the Goethals Bridge replacement and a $4 billion renovation of LaGuardia Airport's central terminal.

He pushed for the agency to support Amtrak's Gateway Program, which includes a new Hudson River train tunnel, and challenged stakeholders to accelerate the project. Gateway is "the most important transportation infrastructure program in the U.S.," Port Authority Commissioner Richard Bagger said.

Kevin O'Toole's appointment as board chairman was approved, effective immediately.

O'Toole, tapped by Governor Chris Christie, replaces John Degnan, who is resigning. Christie appointed Degnan in 2014 to help clean up the agency in the aftermath of the "Bridgegate" scandal.

Bagger called Degnan's leadership "nothing short of heroic, coming in during a very challenging time and developing and implementing a series of reforms."

Foye and Degnan sometimes disagreed with each other, but "you know about it because it's been in public," Degnan said. "I'm proud of that. Wouldn't have happened under the old Port Authority. We would have found a way to keep it quiet." (Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and Steve Orlofsky)