The Politics of Lane Closures: GW Bridge-Gate

The unannounced lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in early September have brought down two Port Authority directors and now hold serious implications for popular N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (R), thought to be a 2016 presidential candidate.
December 21, 2013, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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In his continuing coverage of what has become known as Bridge-Gate, Mark J. Magyar of NJ Spotlight writes, "Facing the first real political scandal of his administration, (New Jersey Gov.) Christie yesterday (Thursday) lashed out at the press and Democratic critics, dismissed the secret lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic in Fort Lee (N.J., population 3,393) as inconsequential, and stood up for his political appointees who were forced to resign their high-paying Port Authority (of New York and New Jersey) posts in the wake of Bridge-gate."

The governor dismissed allegations that David Wildstein, a former high school classmate who resigned two weeks ago as the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects, had closed two Fort Lee entry lanes leading into the George Washington Bridge as retaliation against Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to join more than 50 other Democratic officials in endorsing him for reelection.

Of course, to users of the world's busiest bridge, particularly those using the ramps to and from Fort Lee, the unannounced lane closures in early September were anything but inconsequential, as explained by Tom P. Ryan in a Times of Trenton guest opinion on Dec. 18:

Sept. 9, without warning, by order of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, two of the three lanes that grant access to the George Washington Bridge (GWB) from Fort Lee were shut down. The result was gridlock, not only on the on-ramps to the GWB, but also in Fort Lee itself. Thousands of commuters who travel through Fort Lee every day, including school buses and emergency vehicles, were impeded by the lane closures.

"The local-access lanes were ordered re-opened after four days by authority executive director Patrick Foye," reports CBS New York.

The lane closures will be investigated by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee upon the request of committee chairman Sen. Jay D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as by the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. which operates the bridge.

Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who has been chairing the New Jersey legislature's Bridge-gate investigation, is looking into whether the lane closures were "about the abuse of power and the effort to conceal that abuse of power by the governor’s two highest-level appointments to the Port Authority, who closed traffic lanes from Fort Lee leading into the George Washington Bridge and concealed it from the executive director of the Port Authority, the mayor of Fort Lee. and the chief of police," writes Magyar. A criminal investigation could be next. 

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Published on Friday, December 20, 2013 in NJ Spotlight
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