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Port Authority under fire for GWB lane closures

Glenn Townes | 12/26/2013, 11:30 a.m.
Chis Christie

Fallout continues from lane closures on the George Washington Bridge (GWB), one of the major thoroughfares between New York and New Jersey, as one of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s top executives resigned last week in Newark.

Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director of the Bistate Mega Transportation agency, announced he would step down from the post, as state politicos are calling for a federal investigation into a supposed “traffic study” of the GWB in September that led to massive traffic jams and backups on the major artery between the two states. Politicians—mainly Democrats—contend that the alleged study was nothing more than a nuisance and a ploy by Republicans to punish the Democratic mayor of the town of Fort Lee, N.J., for not endorsing Republican Gov. Chris Christie for his re-election bid earlier this year. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich has been an ardent critic of the Christie administration, and travel between Fort Lee and New York was severely encumbered by the GWB lane closures. Baroni and other Port Authority officials, however, deny the claim and stick to the notion that a traffic pattern study by the agency facilitated the detours.

In a statement to the media earlier this week, Christie said the resignation of his former colleague and friend Baroni had been pending a while. He said, “I accepted it because I thought it was the appropriate thing to do with all the distractions going on.” Christie also announced that his former colleague Deborah Gramiccioni would replace Baroni.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been under fire by Christie, politicos in both states, commuters and others for its alleged mishandling of funds, unjustified and sizable toll hikes, gross negligence and incompetence.

During the first few years of his administration, Christie appointed a special task force headed by former state Attorney General Paula Dow to dissect the agency and make changes and recommendations. Late Sen. Frank Lautenberg was also a frequent critic of the agency.

Last Tuesday, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg issued a statement indicating that she will ask Congress to launch a full investigation into the operations of the Port Authority.

Blogger Bill M. posted, “So, a traffic study was done to see what effect closing lanes on the bridge would have on rush-hour traffic? Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper to hire a Gypsy fortune-teller to get the same answer?”