In a dramatic update of the ongoing GW Bridge lane closure scandal, NJ Gov. Chris Christie apparently had direct contact with NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding the closure of two lanes, a move that caused major traffic jams throughout the town of Fort Lee, NJ and on the bridge itself. The topic of discussion
Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J., was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.
In the words of Scooby Doo - Ruh Roh.
According to a Wall Street Journal report just posted this afternoon, Gov. Christie apparently had "direct contact" with Gov. Cuomo about the matter.
The GW Bridge is operated by the Port Authority of NY/NJ, a joint commission that regulates and operates the numerous transit arteries that connect NJ and NYC. As such, any decisions that are made regarding the transit options are made jointly, with cooperation between the states and their respective administrations and authorities.
This issue was highlighted to the Daily Kos community a few days ago by user Bethesda 1971, whose diary first reported on the scandal.
The quick summary is that the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ (a Democrat) refused to support Gov. Christie's re-election bid. Gov. Christie depended on numerous (turncoat) Democratic mayors' endorsements as a way to seem moderate to voters. However, the Fort Lee mayor refused.
Allegedly, as revenge, Gov. Christie (via his hand-picked associates at the Port Authority) ordered all Manhattan-bound lanes except one shut down, due to a supposed "traffic study". This was very surprising to the employees of the Port Authority, who say that such studies have 1) already been done, and 2) require months in advance planning, not the week notice Gov. Christie gave.
In recent hearings, bridge director had this stunning exchange with NJ State Assemblyman John Wisniewski:
“Your testimony tells me that there is a culture of fear at the Port Authority,” Mr. Wisniewski said. “Is there a culture of fear?”
Mr. Durando sat silently.
“I think your answer speaks for itself,” Mr. Wisniewski said finally.
Fast forward to today's report, which states that Gov. Christie was personally involved in the matter. No more blaming associates or staff members.
According to the WSJ report:
The private exchange appears to stand in contrast to Mr. Christie's only public remarks on the bridge matter. At a briefing for reporters on Dec. 2, the governor mocked a Democratic lawmaker's inquiry on the lane closures and joked that he himself had moved the traffic cones that winnowed local access to the bridge.
Mr. Baroni told lawmakers in November that the incident was the result of a traffic study intended to determine if the lanes should be permanently taken away from the local access ramp in Fort Lee and used for traffic coming from the local highway. That statement didn't precisely match the authority's initial written response to complaints about the lane closures, which said the authority was studying "traffic safety."
Mr. Foye, testifying under oath on Monday after receiving a subpoena, said he didn't believe Mr. Baroni's version of the events was true. "I'm not aware of any traffic study," he said.
Well well well. Not surprising that Gov. Christie would bully his opponents around and use political revenge as a means of intimidation.
I think this story just got even more legs. Time to spread the word.