A couple of days ago I read a weird story about allegations against David Wildstein, an official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who’s an old friend and close ally of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. According to this story, Wildstein closed two of the three lanes on the New Jersey end of the bridge last September, causing traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee. This was supposedly done in retaliation against Fort Lee’s mayor, who had declined to endorse Christie for reelection.
The whole thing seemed a little too outré to be true, and Wildstein claimed the closings were part of a “traffic study.” I figured that was the end of it. Wildstein would eventually produce some Port Authority engineers who would explain what the study was all about, and that would be that.
Except no. On Friday Wildstein announced that he would resign his position at the end of the year. And that traffic study? It turns out that folks in New Jersey have been asking for evidence of its existence for weeks and gotten nothing. Via Steve Benen, here’s the Star-Ledger editorial board:
Why have the agency’s own traffic engineers said they knew nothing of the phantom “study”?
New Jersey lawmakers have asked questions — and gotten nothing but excuses and tap-dancing in return. So now it’s time to pull out the big guns and subpoena Port Authority honchos to testify, under threat of perjury, about the shutdown, the study and their connection to Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election.
….How do you study traffic and block lanes without notifying police, ambulance drivers or even your own bridge employees? The official “traffic study” excuse strains believability. Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who chairs the transportation committee, ordered Foye subpoenaed. More subpoenas should follow. At a minimum, Baroni and David Wildstein, the underling who ordered the Fort Lee blockade, should be ordered to Trenton, too — and told to bring documents proving the study exists.
Today, the general manager of the Port Authority testified that “he’d never been ordered to conduct unannounced lane closures in his 35-year career.” And there’s still no documentation for this study.
This is just strange as hell. I think it’s vanishingly unlikely that Christie himself had anything to do with this, so maybe it all just gets chalked up to the rough-and-tumble of Jersey politics. If so, it’s certainly one of the strangest and stupidest acts of petty political retaliation in recent memory.