EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

January 11, 2014

Damage-control scramble followed NJ lane closings

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Officials squabbled over media leaks and worried about bad publicity in the days after lane closings near the George Washington Bridge caused huge traffic jams that now appear to have been politically orchestrated by members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, documents released yesterday show.

In the documents, officials appointed by Christie seemed more concerned about the political fallout than the effects of the gridlock in the town of Fort Lee during four mornings in September.

The thousands of pages were released by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating the scandal, which could haunt Christie’s expected run for president in 2016. The documents mostly involve the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge.

Lawmakers are looking into allegations that Christie loyalists engineered the tie-ups to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

The documents show that the traffic mess created tension between New York and New Jersey appointees at the Port Authority, with the New York side angrily countermanding the lane closings.

In the correspondence, Port Authority chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee, suggested that the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye, who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had leaked to a reporter an internal memo ordering an end to the lane closings.

Samson called that possibility “very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations.”

On Thursday, Christie moved to contain the damage from the scandal, firing his deputy chief of staff, cutting ties to one of his chief political advisers and apologizing for the traffic jams. Two Christie appointees at the Port Authority resigned last month as the scandal unfolded.

Christie has denied any involvement in the lane closings, and the two batches of documents released on Wednesday and Friday do not implicate him.

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