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Report Shines New Light On Controversial GWB Lane Closures

George Washington Bridge (file/credit: CBS 2)

George Washington Bridge (file/credit: CBS 2)

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FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Records show a northern New Jersey mayor pleaded for help in easing gridlock at the George Washington Bridge, a request made three years before two of the bridge’s approach lanes were suddenly blocked.

Citing documents it obtained from Fort Lee through a public-records request, The Bergen Record reports borough Mayor Mark Sokolich sought help in a letter sent to Bill Baroni in November 2010. Critics say that shows Gov. Chris Christie’s appointees at the authority knew of the borough’s sensitivities to congestion before they ordered the unannounced lane closures in September.

At the time, Baroni was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s deputy executive director. But he and another Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, recently resigned their posts amid investigations into how and why the lanes were closed in September.

Democrats claim the closures were political payback for a Democratic mayor who would not endorse Christie for re-election, which Christie has denied. Baroni had said the lane closures were part of a traffic study, but the Port Authority’s executive director testified before a New Jersey Assembly panel that there was no study.

The letter is among dozens of documents that show the Port Authority has given Fort Lee financial aid to help cope with hosting the world’s busiest bridge over the last 15 years.

Sokolich has said he was ignored by the authority during the September lane closings. Neither he nor Baroni responded to the newspaper’s request for comment.

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