Patrick Foye was subpoenaed to appear. He did so willingly. He did so seriously. Unlike some of his associates from his workplace -- this unique Intrastate Agency with quite the sizable budget:
your budget is bigger than 26 U.S. statesaccording the Chairman of that investigation committee, NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (on pg 190).
The testimony of Patrick Foye starts on page 140 of this Document, which is the transcript of Committee Meeting of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works And Independent Authorities Committee (NJ), which happened on December 9, 2013.
Patrick Foye provided his testimony, without the benefit of an attorney present, as was his right. As was explained to him here:
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Do you understand that you have certain rights under the Code of Fair Procedure, including the right to be accompanied by counsel who would be permitted to confer with you during the questioning, and advise you of your rights, and submit proposed questions on your behalf?So without further introductory-setup, here are some of the more interesting highlights, from the sworn testimony to that NJ Committee, from Patrick Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (appointed by New York Governor, to his 'top dog', "the buck stops here" position.)
MR. FOYE: Yes, sir.
MR. FOYE: [...]
Regarding the decision to restrict access from local roads in Fort Lee from three lanes to one, let me start by laying out the standards we employ when a traffic alteration is contemplated at any of our facilities. First: Written sign-off by the Tunnels, Bridges, and Terminals Department, as well as by Traffic Engineering and the Port Authority Police Department. Second: Prior discussion with the local governments and host communities, a communications plan, and plenty of advance notice to the commuting public. Third: Consideration of the effects on emergency vehicles. And fourth: Consideration of the financial impact on the Port Authority in terms of additional costs, including overtime, given the public we serve.
While my review of the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge for four days during the week of September 9 is continuing, it is clear that the closure met none of these conditions. After inquiring with Bridge personnel on what I deemed an ill-advised operation, I ordered the immediate reopening of the lanes as quickly and safely as possible. I also made clear that changes to Fort Lee access lanes would require the same due diligence we apply throughout our facilities.
In the time that has lapsed since the unannounced closures, I have learned, as has this Committee, that the agency’s Director of Interstate Capital Projects, David Wildstein, made the decision on or about September 5 to restrict local access lanes to the upper level toll plaza in Fort Lee from three lanes to one. Wildstein failed to provide notice to the leadership of our Public Safety Department, including our Chief Security Officer and the Chief of the Department, or to the Borough of Fort Lee, Fort Lee Police and first responders, other Bergen County communities, the commuting public, or senior leadership within the Port Authority, including me.
As a result of his decision, commuters entering the George Washington Bridge that week were subjected to hours of gridlock, and the Borough of Fort Lee was, for all intents and purposes, shut down during the morning rush. Drivers complained of up to 4-hour commutes, and Port Authority Police expended significant resources to create traffic diversions to safely control the massive back up of vehicles on Fort Lee roads. September 9 was also the first day of school for many children in the surrounding communities, and we now know that there were reports from parents and local schools that many school buses were delayed due to the unnecessary gridlock that engulfed the Borough of Fort Lee.
Most alarmingly however, it has been reported that ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and other public safety vehicles were also needlessly delayed, putting the public’s safety at risk. Thankfully, it appears there was no resulting loss of life due to the closures. However, that is of little comfort to me or my colleagues at the Port Authority who believe that the safety of the traveling public is the Port Authority’s number one priority.
Let me be clear, the decision to restrict local access to the George Washington Bridge during the morning rush bypassed normal operating procedures, without proper transparency and openness. And it directly violated our agency’s primary responsibility to protect our customers and personnel.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Okay. You said you’ve had a number of conversations with Mr. Baroni regarding this incident.
MR. FOYE: Yes.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Did he, at any time during those conversations, explain why this decision was made on the part of Wildstein to do these lane closures?
MR. FOYE: Traffic study.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: And that was the best he could give you, or gave you, in terms of rationale for causing all of this?
MR. FOYE: That was the rationale.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Okay. You know there’s been a lot of speculation that these lane closures were done for political purpose because of the issues with the Mayor in Fort Lee. And when you’ve had these conversations with Wildstein, did he make any reference to his decision having to have political purpose?
MR. FOYE: So, Vice Chair, just to be clear, I’ve had no conversations with Wildstein. I’ve spoken with Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. And the answer to your question is no.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: So you accepted their statement, their rationale that they put people at risk, and spent money, and created tremendous upheaval solely for the purpose of a traffic study?
MR. FOYE: I don’t.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: You don’t. Why do you think they did it?
MR. FOYE: I’m not aware of any traffic study. I don’t know why it was done.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: Going back to the Chairman’s question regarding the letter written by the Mayor of Fort Lee dated September 12 to Mr. Baroni: You had no knowledge of this letter being written to your organization regarding the problems and the traffic chaos in Fort Lee because of this alleged study?
MR. FOYE: No, sir. As I said, I became aware of it when it was posted on a newspaper Website -- I believe the Journal. And as you see, it’s not addressed to me or cc’d to me.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: Correct. So why wouldn’t Mr. Baroni share this with you, realizing you had this major problem in Fort Lee caused by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey?
MR. FOYE: I don’t know, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: Okay. Can you share with us anything from your internal review that has come out -- in this internal review that you’re conducting now regarding this?
MR. FOYE: Well, I think, Assemblyman, obviously this was an operation directed by David Wildstein. It was, frankly, a low point in the Port Authority history. As soon as I became aware of it, for all the reasons set forth in my e-mail -- but most specifically because of the public safety concerns -- I reversed it. If I had to do it over again, I’d make the same decision -- exactly the same decision. Procedures have been put in place to make sure this can’t recur. I think both from a personnel point of view -- which is not an institutional reform -- but both from a personnel point of view and an institutional point of view, this can’t recur. And the review is ongoing, including with respect to other steps that may need to be taken to ensure this doesn’t recur, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: Was there a traffic study?
MR. FOYE: I’m not aware of any.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: We were told -- well, I was not on the Committee. I sat in the audience when this Committee had their meetings -- this Transportation Committee. And we were told there was a traffic study by Mr. Baroni. You’re not aware of any traffic study?
MR. FOYE: I’m not aware of a traffic study. No, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON: Based on fairness -- we’re trying to determine fairness for the people of -- the commuters who use the George Washington Bridge. So you’re not aware of any traffic study.
MR. FOYE: No, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Does the Federal law just speak to personal injury?
MR. FOYE: No, I believe -- and, again, I’ll be very frank, I’m not an expert on the [Federal] Bridge Act but have become familiar with it in the last two-and-a-half years. I believe that what happened here that week impugns the Bridge Act.
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Vice Chair Stender.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Foye, on this issue -- the violation of the law is because of -- your opinion -- that it was an improper use to shut those lanes down.
MR. FOYE: Yes, Vice Chair.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: And so that improper use is what -- is my question to you. I mean, do you believe that they were shut down for political purpose, and that’s what the improper use is?
MR. FOYE: No. The improper action was taking this -- was affecting these lane closures without notifying the public, without notifying the Fort Lee Mayor, without notifying the police and first responders. That’s inconsistent with Port Authority protocol prior to September 9; it’s inconsistent with it today. That was the wrongful action.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: And if, in fact, through further review or through the process of review, it was found that those closures were done for political purpose, is that a violation of the law?
MR. FOYE: Well, Vice Chair, I believe that regardless of motivation, the actions that were taken the week of September 9 implicate and violate Federal and state law. That’s my belief, regardless of the motivation. And it was my belief then; it’s my belief now.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Do you agree that using lane closures for political purpose is the wrong thing to do?
MR. FOYE: Vice Chair, I believe that the use of any of our facilities, other than in the public interest and other than in the promotion of the rapid, safe, and expedited transit of people and goods is improper, for any reason.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: Forgive me. Mr. Foye, do we have any idea exactly how many automobiles, buses, trucks, etc., were actually affected by these four days of bedlam? A raw number? The figure was given -- 300,000 cars a day traverse the Bridge. Do we have any breakdown further in terms of what this--[Note: Emphasis was added by this poster -- to facilitate scan-readers.]
MR. FOYE: Well, Assemblyman, a rule of thumb is that the Fort Lee lanes -- which obviously don’t serve just Fort Lee, but beyond -- account for about 25 percent to 26 percent of the traffic on any given morning, any given afternoon. So using the 300,000 number, that gets you to 70,000 to 75,000 cars total. How long each was delayed, I don’t know. But it would be a number like that, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: I’m asking another question. Forgive me, Mr. Chairman. I apologize. There was testimony earlier given by the director of the GW Bridge.
MR. FOYE: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: Would you remember, sir, how many lanes there are that -- how many toll lanes there are actually that the director responded to?
MR. FOYE: I believe what the director said -- and the director is still in the room -- was he said 12 toll lanes on the upper level, of which three are the so-called Fort Lee lanes, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: So a question, if I may. You just stated, sir, that 26 percent, 27 percent of toll lanes are accounted for from the Fort Lee access. There are 12 lanes, 3 of them are Fort Lee. That’s 25 percent. Come back to me again -- please let me understand -- we did a survey that no one can understand or has any material of. We saw charts the other day presented by Mr. Baroni that, at best, seemed fantasy-like, for lack of any other term. And now we’re learning that, indeed, 3 lanes is totally proportionate to the amount of traffic from the Fort Lee area that feeds into the Bridge. Is that correct?
MR. FOYE: I believe that to be -- that rough math is correct. Yes, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: It would be fascinating to know what the economic implications were to the region for a test that, in fact, did not exist, for a purpose of which no one can attribute, for reasons no one can state. [...]
MR. FOYE: Assemblyman, I understand your request, and we’ll ask the Office of the Chief Economist to make an estimate based on reasonable assumptions for the traffic delay that day.
ASSEMBLYMAN SCHAER: We’d look most forward. Thank you, sir.
I suspect this is the "Federal Bridge Act" to which Patrick Foye referenced in his testimony, and in his initial email, which set the GWB traffic situation, back to normal. And these appear to be the sections that of that Act which were ignored by David Wildstein, and whoever else that was directing him, when they abruptly shutdown those Fort Lee lanes -- with no prior notice to the public, the local officials, nor to the chief executive of their very unique Port Authority agency (also known as Mr. Patrick Foye):
General Bridge Act of 1946 (Rivers and Harbors Act)
The General Bridge Act of 1946 (formerly Section 9 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899) empowers USCG [United States Coast Guard] to regulate the construction of bridges and causeways within or across waterways defined as navigable by that agency. Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 empowers USACE [United States Army Corps of Engineers] to regulate all work on structures in or affecting the course, condition, or capacity of the navigable waters of the United States.[Note: Emphasis here is from the original document.]
Subsection 650.805 (d) states, “For bridge crossings of waterways with navigational traffic where the HA believes that a USCG permit may not be required, the HA [Highway Agency] shall provide supporting information early in the environmental analysis stage of project development to enable FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] to make a determination that a USCG permit is not required and that proposed navigational clearances are reasonable.”
Advanced Approval Category
A USCG permit shall not be required if FHWA determines that the proposed construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of the federally aided or assisted bridge is over waters that:
* are not used or are not susceptible to use in their natural condition or by reasonable improvement as a means to transport interstate or foreign commerce
Not that following quaint things called "Federal Statutes" really matter to the officials of New Jersey, or to the Port Authority officials, that they have appointed.
Because in the case of the New Jersey Chief Executive Officer -- apparently 'ignorance of events' has once again become a so-called "valid excuse," for whatever law-breaking and public endangerment, that their careless actions may have incidentally resulted in.