TRENTON - A New Jersey state lawmaker wants Congress to investigate the agency responsible for traffic jams caused by unannounced lane closings approaching the George Washington Bridge into New York City.
Democrats claim the gridlock was an act of retribution by loyalists of Gov. Christie, which the governor has denied.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) said she would introduce a resolution Thursday asking Congress to investigate the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Democratic-led Senate could pass the resolution by the end of the year.
The authority's inspector general and the Assembly Transportation Committee are looking into the diversions that brought Fort Lee to a standstill during the first week of school in September.
The lawmaker said Congress would bring a wider perspective to the probe since it could examine whether changes are needed in the federal legislation that created the bistate authority that operates bridges, tunnels, rail service, and airports in the New York/New Jersey region.
"Congress should be looking at the law that created the Port Authority, the lack of transparency, whether the law that created the authority requires changes, and that the structure of the authority needs to be amended," said Weinberg.
The lane closings have created a distraction for Christie, who won reelection by 22 points in November and is seen as a strong potential contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The governor's top two appointees at the authority have resigned, and he held an hour-long news conference Friday to try to manage the story.
Democrats contend the lane closings were political payback to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who declined to endorse Christie for reelection.
The closings were ordered by Christie's No. 2 man at the agency, David Wildstein, a childhood friend of the governor's and former political blogger. Christie's top deputy, Bill Baroni, knew about them but the agency's executive director, Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said he wasn't informed. Baroni later received a letter from Sokolich claiming the closings were punitive, but the mayor has since backed away from that statement.
Christie said Friday he has no reason to doubt the explanation of his two appointees, who contend the closings were for a traffic pattern study.
Foye testified that he wasn't aware of any traffic study, and two Port Authority directors said they feared for their jobs if they failed to carry out Wildstein's order to divert traffic.
Weinberg said she is troubled about the work environment described by the three under oath, and is still concerned by the results of a Government Accountability Office audit in August showing the authority lacked transparency when it raised tolls by 50 percent on bridges and tunnels into New York after holding only one day of public hearings.
Neither the governor's office nor the Port Authority responded to e-mail requests for comment Monday.
The Port Authority has until Thursday to turn over documents and e-mails subpoenaed by the state Assembly panel.