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Port Authority Head To Attend Public Meeting Over Easter Traffic Jam

S.I. Councilman: Heads Should Roll For Sunday's Disaster
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Drivers were stuck in traffic for hours on Easter Sunday (credit: Bill Lyons, Staten Island Advance)

Drivers were stuck in traffic for hours on Easter Sunday (credit: Bill Lyons, Staten Island Advance)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lawmakers from Staten Island remain outraged at the decision to have just one cash lane open at two toll bridges to New Jersey, which created massive traffic backups on Easter.

The ride over the Goethals Bridge should take only a few minutes, particularly with E-ZPass, but drivers said they were stuck in a traffic jam for up to seven hours Sunday.

Councilman James Oddo was and still is demanding answers after this weekend’s traffic error.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see anyone hurt but I want to see heads roll,” Oddo said.

The Port Authority Will Face The Music At A Public Meeting Next Monday. 1010 WINS’ Al Jones Reports.

The traffic jam stretched from Route 440 to the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike and lasted all day.

Sources told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer that the problem was caused by what they call a “disconnect” between the Port Authority’s administrative office and the operations command. Budget cuts caused them to lay off lots of toll takers but they never replaced them.

“Who made this decision and when you see that the backup is halfway to Mexico, isn’t there a red phone that you can pick up and say ‘We have a problem, this has to be addressed?’ This wasn’t an hour. It wasn’t two hours. It wasn’t rush hour. It was an all-day event. This is filed under ‘galactically stupid’,” Oddo said.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Staten Island Councilman James Oddo

Councilman Oddo said he has received hundreds of e-mails from furious constituents who said that on each bridge only one cash toll booth was manned, jamming up not only the cash lines but E-ZPass as well.

“I left Hazlet, N.J. at 7:30 p.m. and I got home at 1:30 in the morning,” wrote a constituent who lives in the Huguenot section and was travelling with her 78-year-old father.

“It was a total disgrace. When my father got out of the car after travelling for six and a half hours his legs were shaking and he couldn’t walk. I thought it was a threat of some kind, but instead it was one person working.”

Those caught up in the traffic jam on the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing were still fuming two days later.

“That’s horrible,” one driver said Tuesday. “That’s horrible, I mean I understand that it’s a holiday and it’s a skeleton crew but they should have more people on.”

“I didn’t know that was the reason but that sounds kinda dumb,” another driver said.

“At some point doesn’t someone in management say, ‘We’ve got cars queued up halfway to the Mason-Dixon Line, we have to do something’?” Oddo said.

The Port Authority fired off a letter, saying “The problem had to be with scheduling, and it seemed that someone decided that the best thing to do would be to schedule less than the optimum number of toll collectors and hope for the best. It seems to be another example of the Forgotten Borough syndrome rearing its head.”

The agency also publicly apologized for the incident in a statement, saying “We value our customers and have immediately begun working to address the cause of [Sunday's] backup.”

Oddo said the problem isn’t a new one, but was made worse by the holiday.

“Apparently they have laid off a number of toll collectors. OK, well laying them off and not having a plan after that is not a strategy,” he said.

The Port Authority’s head will attend a public meeting next Monday to explain what went wrong. Officials want to make sure there are no repeat delays on the next big family holiday, Mother’s Day, in less than two weeks.

Is Staten Island really a “forgotten borough?” Leave a comment below…

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