NJ Dem: 'Improper Motive' Prompted GW Bridge Lane Closures

James Beattie
By James Beattie | January 3, 2014 | 1:46 PM EST

A New Jersey Assemblyman contends that an "improper motive" prompted George Washington Bridge lane closures in September shortly before the state's gubernatorial election.

Critics say Mark Sokolich, the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, was punished for not endorsing Governor Chris Christie in his re-election bid this past fall.  Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials say the lane closures were caused due to a traffic study.  Notice of this study was not passed along to local officials.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who represents portions of central New Jersey and Chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, told The Record that, "There are documents that we've received that would indicate that there was somebody else who initiated this."

"There are words that are used that would imply an improper motive."

There is currently an inquiry being conducted by the Port Authority's Inspector General to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.

Former Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni and aide David Wildstein, both Christie appointees, have since resigned over the scandal.  An email provided to The Record shows that Cristina M. Lado, the Port Authority's Director of Government and Community Affairs for New Jersey, sent September 9, 2013 to both Baroni and Wildstein, show that the officials were not in communication with the Mayor or anyone in the town.  It reads in part:

"Wanted you both to have a heads up, Peggy Thomas, [Fort Lee] Borough Administrator, called me regarding the increased volume and congestion of AM rush traffic throughout the Borough as a result of the GWB toll lanes adjustment that occurred."

"She mentioned that there were 2 incidents that Ft Lee PD and EMS had difficulty responding to; a missing child (later found) and a cardiac arrest."

The emails also state that Sokolich "had placed calls to your office."

The lane diversions took effect with advanced notice of one business day, as ordered by Wildstein.  Wisniewski, however, says that "This didn't originate with David Wildstein."

"It came from a higher authority."

When asked by The Record if there was any evidence if Christie ordered these lane closures or knew about them beforehand, Wisniewski said, "I don't want to go that far. I'm not ready to dot that 'I' and cross that 'T'."