Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) issued a statement on Thursday announcing that he had received a response from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to his questions about the George Washington Bridge lane closures. According to Rockefeller, that response contained “zero evidence” that the lanes were closed as a result of a legitimate traffic study.
“The letter explains the careful planning and communication that should happen before interstate bridge lanes are closed for a traffic study or any other non-emergency purpose,” Rockefeller said. “The Port Authority officials who ordered the September 9-13 George Washington Bridge lane closures did not follow their agency’s own procedures. The Port Authority’s response provides zero evidence that the purpose of these closures was to conduct a legitimate traffic study.”
Port Authority officials have previously maintained that the lanes were closed for a traffic study, an assertion that Gov. Chris Christie (R) refused to dismiss at a press conference last week. Democrats in New Jersey have argued that the lanes were closed in retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., a Democrat who declined to endorse Christie’s re-election last year. The closures caused a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee.
Rockefeller sent a letter to Port Authority officials on December 16, before the release last week of thousands of pages of documents connected to the incident.
“I am also disturbed by the evidence showing that the Port Authority’s professional and engineering staff raised serious concerns about the lane closure plan,” Rockefeller said in his statement on Thursday. “They explained that the closures would cause significant congestion and delays, and would increase the risk of sideswipe crashes. It is unconscionable that anyone would block commercial traffic and risk the safety of thousands on our interstate highway system in this way.”