TRENTON - The head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said he was not aware of any traffic study being conducted when two lanes to the George Washington Bridge were shut without notice for four days in September.
Monday's sworn testimony by Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, contradicts statements by New Jersey's top official at the authority, the deputy executive director, Bill Baroni.
Baroni, an appointee of Gov. Christie, told a state Assembly Transportation panel two weeks ago that the lane closings were for a traffic study.
On Monday, the committee heard about six hours of testimony from Foye and two authority directors, both of whom said they were wary of closing the lanes but followed the order to do so without question. The order, they all said, came from another Christie appointee, David Wildstein, who resigned effective Dec. 31.
A former mayor who once ran a political website under the name Wally Edge, Wildstein is paid $150,000 per year. Foye said Wildstein has been stripped of decision-making duties.
Monday's hearing did little to dissuade Democrats that politics were the root of the lane closings.
The idea that politics were at play was introduced by the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who in a note to Baroni said the closings were punitive. Other Democrats have said the lanes were closed to pressure the mayor to endorse Christie for reelection. The governor has denied it.
After the hearing, the focus lingered on Baroni, not Wildstein.
"The testimony showed that Mr. Baroni has not been honest with the public and this committee about these lane closures and his mythical traffic study," said committee chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who formerly headed the party's state committee.
"Mr. Baroni must go. No one can have any confidence in his abilities."
The Port Authority did not return a message for comment Monday afternoon.
Foye told the panel he reversed the closings due to complaints of hours-long tie-ups and public safety concerns. Foye, who has called the closings "ill-advised," "unnecessary," and probably illegal, said an internal review was underway.