Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lane-Closure Questions Meet with an Orange Cone of Silence

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lane-Closure Questions Meet with an Orange Cone of Silence

Article excerpt

A dozen times on Wednesday Port Authority executives were asked pointed questions about a seemingly routine exercise: lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September. Why, and by whom, were they ordered?

And each time their reply to reporters and frustrated New Jersey lawmakers who attended a meeting of the board of commissioners looking for answers was the same: "It's under review."

The reticence, following reports that a top Christie appointee at the agency closed three local access lanes to punish the Fort Lee mayor for political reasons, appeared to inflame a controversy that has already attracted the attention of New Jersey's top Democratic legislators, who once again are threatening to issue subpoenas.

The temporary lane closures -- initially described by an agency spokesman as a "traffic study" -- have also highlighted behind-the- scenes tensions within the bi-state agency. In an internal email written in mid-September by the agency's top executive, Executive Director Patrick Foye, a New York appointee, and leaked to the media, Foye called the closure "a hasty and ill-advised decision" that "subverted" agency policies and may have broken federal and state laws.

He did not identify who made the decision, which caused three- hour backups on local Fort Lee entrance ramps, but he reversed it immediately and vowed to get to the bottom of it.

The person who orchestrated the lane closures was one of Christie's top appointees in the agency, David Wildstein, according to a Wall Street Journal story last week. Wildstein, a former political consultant and founder of the website politickernj.com, is technically Christie's No. 2 but is widely seen as taking a primary role in the agency's day-to-day operations on behalf of the Christie administration.

Wildstein, who did not attend the afternoon regular meeting of the board of commissioners, did not respond to requests for comment.

Christie's top spokesman, Michael Drewniak, has repeatedly said over the last week that the governor does not get involved in traffic decisions.

Publicly, both the agency's executives from New York and New Jersey have been mum as the questions have accumulated about the lane closures. …

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