Four hundred seventy-seven days after receiving a referral from the Inspector General of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the office of U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman today laid out a first glimpse of the criminal prosecutions arising from Bridgegate.
For four days in September 2013, approach lanes that guide traffic from Fort Lee, N.J. to the eastbound upper deck of the George Washington Bridge, the busiest bridge in the world, were condensed into one lane.
From afar, that may seem like a trivial traffic pattern alteration. But on the ground, it was a nightmare for the residents of Fort Lee, the 36,000 person town perched atop cliffs along the Hudson River. The traffic jam began on the first day of school. Buses full of children were late to school – not by minutes but by hours. Already edgy commuters called city hall. Ambulance crews and EMTs had to abandon their vehicles to reach sick residents on foot. The local police chief tried, with no success, to reach counterparts at the Port Authority Police Department to get an explanation and seek relief. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich phoned New Jersey’s top executive at the agency, which owns and operates the bridge, seeking an explanation. After getting no response, he phoned the governor’s office. Again, no response. On the fourth day of the closings he sent a letter seeking to quietly persuade the Port Authority to reverse its changes, detailing the hardships being imposed on his borough’s residents.
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