"As the evidence in the case has unfolded, it's become clear the questions that need answering here are no longer just transportation questions," Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto (D) said in a statement announcing the formation of the committee.
One of Gov. Chris Christie's (R) top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, ordered the lanes to be shut. The closures led to four days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J.
Documents subpoenaed by the Assembly's transportation committee showed Christie's appointees mocking the town's Democratic mayor when he raised concerns about the traffic. Other documents showed a top aide in Christie's office was involved in some of the discussions about the lane closures.
According to a statement from the Assembly Democrats announcing the formation committee to investigate the lane closures, it "will have subpoena power" and will "utilize a special counsel." The committee will be chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), who previously investigated the matter as chairman of the Assembly's transportation committee. The committee had subpoena power over the Port Authority through the end of the current legislative session on Jan. 14 as part of an earlier inquiry into toll hikes. Wisniewski had been seeking an extension of that authority.
"We have made great strides in finding out what actually happened here with this threat to public safety and abuse of power, but so many questions remain unanswered," Wisniewski said in the statement announcing the new committee. "The evidence that has come out in recent weeks makes clear that this now goes above and beyond a transportation issue and goes into the highest ranks of the executive branch. A concerted and focused investigation with increased resources is now needed, and I look forward to continuing to uncover answers for the people of New Jersey with these new tools at hand. This investigation will continue with increased intensity.”