New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) provided a letter to TPM on Monday showing that she attempted to alert Gov. Chris Christie (R) about lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September, just six days after the lanes reopened.
The letter gets to the heart of one of the major unanswered questions in a scandal that has erupted from the closures: what did Christie know and when did he know it?
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The lanes were closed on Sept. 9 and re-opened again on early on the morning of Sept. 13. Weinberg, whose district includes part of Fort Lee, N.J., which saw days of traffic gridlock because of the closures, wrote the letter on Sept. 19.
The letter was addressed to William Pat Schuber, a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, expressing her dismay about the lane closures. She also copied Christie on it.
“I am at a loss for words regarding the Authority’s sudden change in the traffic flow pattern to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee. Reducing the number of lanes during peak traffic times has caused a significant hardship for many in the area. This decision, made with no public comment, has created significant congestion in Bergen County,” Weinberg wrote.
At a news conference last month, Christie suggested he first learned of the situation in Fort Lee from newspaper reports published Oct. 1. At his marathon news conference last week, Christie modified his earlier statement and said he may have learned of the issue from “an earlier story.” Christie’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPM about Weinberg’s letter.
In an interview with TPM Monday, Weinberg said she contacted Schuber because he was a former executive of Bergen County, where Fort Lee is located. Due to this association, she expected him to be responsive to local needs. She said Schuber responded after receiving her letter and vowed to look into the issue, but afterwards, she said he did not respond to subsequent inquiries.
“Pat Schuber called me said, ‘You know I didn’t know anything about this,’ which on Sept. 19 he probably didn’t, ‘But I will get to the bottom of it,'” Weinberg told TPM. “I have engaged Pat Schuber personally and publicly at least two or three times saying, ‘You promised me you’d get to the bottom of this.’ And I’m faced with dead silence.”
Weinberg said her attempts to discuss the matter with Schuber included trying to speak to him at a swearing in event for one of the local councils over the “New Year’s break” where they were both in attendance.
“He cut out of there so fast because he didn’t want to bump into me,” she said.
Schuber did not immediately respond to a request for comment. View Weinberg’s original letter below.