The Port Authority’s executive director testified Monday that he was not aware of any purported traffic study that Gov. Chris Christie’s top pick at the agency claimed was to blame for the controversial closure of access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge in September.
Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told members of the Assembly’s transportation committee that the lane closures were ordered by Christie ally David Wildstein, who resigned last week over the closures.
Some have speculated that the lane closures were politically motivated and aimed at punishing Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not backing Christie’s re-election bid.
Foye said he would have fired Wildstein for ordering the lane closures, but couldn’t because he worked under Christie’s appointee, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. Wildstein is set to keep being paid his $150,000 annual salary through the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Baroni has testified the decision to close two of three access lanes from Fort Lee was part of a traffic study.
Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, chairman of the transportation committee, called for Baroni to step down from the bi-state agency.
“Bill Baroni has outlived his usefulness as the Port Authority’s deputy director. 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,” Wisniewski said in a statement. “Mr. Baroni must go. No one can have any confidence in his abilities.”
In a statement, Englewood Assemblyman Gordon Johnson questioned what role Baroni had in the decision to change the traffic pattern.
”It is extremely hard to conceive that only Mr. Wildstein is the only one to blame for this and that his superior, Mr. Baroni, had absolutely no part in this decision,” Johnson said.
George Washington Bridge managers testified that Wildstein told them not to tell anyone about the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee before Foye sent a heated email demanding the lanes be reopened.