A bill moving through the New Jersey Senate is intended to improve accountability and transparency at bi-state transportation agencies.
The Senate Transportation Committee has voted unanimously to advance a bill to require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Delaware River and Bay Authority, Delaware River Port Authority, and Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to provide advance notification of certain projects or operations expected to impede traffic.
Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-Bergen/Passaic, said it is necessary to give the public a heads-up about any activities that may affect commuters and other travelers.
“This bill makes very clear that government agencies, at all levels, need to be transparent and accountable to the residents of New Jersey,” O’Toole said in prepared remarks. “This should remove all confusion going forward.”
The legislative effort follows increased scrutiny of the PANYNJ following the unannounced closure of three lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., in September 2013. The closures snarled traffic for days on the George Washington Bridge.
Democratic legislators have alleged the project was political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor because he didn’t endorse Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for re-election.
Port Authority officials have said the closures were related to a traffic study. Three officials at the Port Authority have since been indicted. This spring one official pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
O’Toole’s bill calls for affected bi-state entities to provide advance notice to the mayor and municipal emergency management coordinator in every municipality within five miles of the affected facility.
Advance notification of the project or operation must also be provided to newspapers in each county and municipality where the transportation facility is located.
In addition, variable message signs would be required for use to inform drivers of any operation that is expected to slow traffic.
O’Toole said it is important to have transparency in government.
“This bill will cement the ability of all agencies to do their necessary projects while giving residents the ability to plan ahead.”
His bill, S2205, awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly.
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