Legislator: NJ Lane Closures Not Traffic-Related

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    The George Washington Bridge, with New York in the background, in an AP file photo from April 14, 2010.

    A New Jersey assemblyman who is holding hearings on whether lane closures on ramps to the George Washington Bridge last year were an act of political retribution says that he has reviewed emails, text messages and other documents on the matter and cannot find any traffic-related explanation for the closures.

    "I've gone through all 907 pages twice since Christmas and I've never seen any explanation," Assemblyman John Wisniewski told The Record about subpoenaed documents from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    The Assemblyman, a Democrat, has been trying to determine whether the closures were a way to sting Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse Republican Gov. Chris Christie in his re-election bid last year.

    Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has described the lane closures in September as "not that big a deal" even as Democrats have continued pressing for information. A spokesman did not immediately respond Thursday to an email.

    Still, two of Christie's top appointees have resigned from the Port Authority, the bistate agency that runs the bridge.

    Besides Wisniewski's probe, the closings are also being investigated by a U.S. senator and the Port Authority's own inspector general.

    Wisniewski said that the materials he has studied suggest that someone outside the agency initiated the lane closures caused backups in Fort Lee for four days in September. Port Authority officials have said that the unannounced lane closures were part of a traffic study.

    "There are documents that we've received that would indicate that there was somebody else who initiated this," said Wisniewski. "There are words that are used that would imply an improper motive."

    "This didn't originate with David Wildstein," he said, referring to the Christie appointee who resigned last month as director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority. "It came from a higher authority."

    Wisniewski did not disclose exactly what let him to believe that and did not return calls Thursday from The Associated Press.

    The traffic problems caught the attention of the political world after Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, described them as "punitive."

    He has said little since then about the issue, but told The Record that he used that word because he did not have any other viable explanation for them. He said he now does not believe the closures were part of retribution for declining to endorse Christie as about 50 Democratic officials did.

    Sokolich said it does not help if he talks about the situation. "I don't know how productive it is for me to jump into the middle of that fray," he said. "I don't view it as a benefit to my community. I'm going to continue to remain relatively silent."