Christie Apologizes for George Washington Bridge Scandal

By:  Warren Mass
Christie Apologizes for George Washington Bridge Scandal

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speaking to members of the media during a press conference on January 9, apologized for the role members of his staff played in the still-unexplained closings last September of two of the three lanes connecting the borough of Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. The lane closures resulted in four days of mammoth traffic jams in Fort Lee that impeded the flow of school buses and emergency vehicles.

The George Washington Bridge crosses the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan.

Christie began the conference by stating:

I come out here to this office where I’ve been many times before and I’ve come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee and I apologize to the members of the state legislature.

I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people that were trusted to serve.

Christie said, significantly: “This morning I’ve terminated the employment of [Deputy Chief of Staff] Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me.”

AP has reported that it and other news organizations obtained copies of e-mails and text messages on January 8 that implicated Kelly in the lane closings, allegedly as political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not join other members of his party in endorsing Christie during his campaign for reelection last November.

In August, Kelly wrote in a message to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Wildstein replied: “Got it.”

A few weeks later, starting on September 9, Wildstein closed the lanes connecting Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. Shortly after 8 a.m. on September 13, Port Authority police removed the orange cones that had shrunk access to the bridge.

“We just got a phone call saying that the Port Authority was lifting the plan,” Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul said.

Port Authority spokesman, Steve Coleman, issued the following explanation in an e-mail: “The Port Authority has conducted a week of study at the … bridge of traffic-safety patterns. We will now review those results and determine the best traffic patterns.... We’ll continue to work with our local law enforcement partners.”

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Photo: George Washington Bridge

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