Senator: 'zero evidence' of GW Bridge traffic study

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.), said Thursday that the agency overseeing the George Washington bridge has shown "zero evidence" that the Fort Lee lane closures were "to conduct a legitimate traffic study."

Authority officials themselves called the closures an "aberrational" event.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, had sent questions to the Port Authoriy of New York and New Jersey, seeking answers about the September lane closures that have created a political firestorm around Gov. Christie and his staff.

Authority officials appointed by Christie had originally claimed that the September lane closures -- which caused massive traffic tie ups -- were part of a traffic study. Rockefeller rejected that idea after reviewing Authority answers to nine questions he sent them in December.

"It is unconscionable that anyone would block commercial traffic and risk the safety of thousands on our interstate highway system in this way," he said in a news release.

Officials at the authority, a bistate agency with appointees from New York and New Jersey, did little to defend the closures.

"The Port Authority shares your concern regarding the aberrational events that occurred at the George Washington Bridge last September, which are not in any way representative of the manner in which business is conducted at the Port Authority," wrote the Authority's board secretary, Karen Eastman.

"No formal approval process to conduct a traffic study (as more fully discussed in the response to Question 1) was sought prior to the toll lane closures," another answer says.

Responding to Rockefeller's final question, the Authority wrote: "It was clear to operations, planning and engineering staff that the toll lane closures would cause additional congestion in Fort Lee."

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