New Jersey lawmakers continue probe into bridge lanes closures

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Jersey Democrats continue to lead the way in pursuit of answers about what led to controversial lane closures last fall on the George Washington Bridge.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, announced on Tuesday, Jan. 14, that the Senate would set up a bipartisan panel with subpoena power to look into lane closures that gridlocked traffic for four days in September on the bridge linking Fort Lee, N.J., with Manhattan, N.Y. The bridge is considered the world’s busiest vehicle bridge.

Sweeney said a special session will be held on Thursday to set up the investigatory committee.

“There are still more questions than answers, and we cannot rest until we know exactly what happened in Fort Lee,” Sweeney said in prepared remarks.

Democratic lawmakers allege the lane closures were political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich because he didn’t endorse Republican Gov. Chris Christie for re-election.

Christie fired a top aide linked to the closures and apologized during a news conference last week. In addition, two officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have resigned.

The special Senate panel will work together with an Assembly panel formed earlier this week to address the same issue.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, will chair the Senate committee.

“This involves the abuse of power, risks of public safety, harm to interstate commerce and a possible cover-up,” Weinberg stated. “We need to combine the resources of both houses of the Legislature to get to the full truth.”

A related effort that fell short of passage at the statehouse sought to change how business is done at the Port Authority.

The Senate voted unanimously on Monday, Jan. 13, the final day of the two-year legislative session, to approve legislation that was intended to improve transparency and accountability at the bi-state agency. However, Assembly lawmakers failed to take up the issue before the session ended.

The concurrent resolution called on Congress to re-examine the organizational structure and operating procedures at the Port Authority. SCR169/ACR217 required the approval of the state Legislature, but it didn’t need the governor’s endorsement.

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