By David Cruz
In the battle to control the narrative surrounding the legislative investigation into the GWB lane closures, Republicans have been going on the offensive, calling out their Democratic colleagues for being partisan and uncooperative and now proposing alternative theories as to what may have motivated the lane closures.
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi today resurrected the largely debunked idea that the lane closures were part of an actual traffic study.
“One hundred percent there was a traffic study,” she insisted. “We have documents pertaining to a traffic study. We have 15 to 20 emails in which people at the Port Authority were copied on a traffic study.”
Schepisi also floated a couple of theories as to why that supposed traffic study was undertaken. She suggests it may have begun with a testy letter from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, wherein the mayor complained about how the PA had caused gridlock in his town. The letter included this threat:
“We find ourselves with no other alternative other than to direct the Chief of Police to completely close off our local roads … to avoid Fort Lee becoming a parking lot in the future.”
And that — suggests Schepisi — may have started what she called a “tit for tat,” culminating in the lane closures as either a final slap to Sokolich or, she adds, as an accommodation to a mayor in need.
“Either one is plausible,” she said. “Either one is something that could have occurred.”
Committee Chairperson Loretta Weinberg says Republicans are simply carrying water for Gov. Christie and that Schepisi’s comments are another GOP attempt to distract the public.
“That’s almost as ridiculous and bizarre as the original closing of the lanes,” she scoffed. “Why would anyone need to prove to Mayor Sokolich what happens when traffic backs up in Fort Lee? I wish people would stop spinning bizarre theories and just help us ask enough questions and talk to enough people to get to the bottom of this.”
This week the committee heard from Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. But it is not scheduled to hear from Sokolich, or any other Fort Lee officials.
The world may never know what actually inspired the lane closures at the GWB. And Schepisi acknowledges that she has no real evidence to support her theories. But, she says, questioning the governor’s PR people isn’t going to get anyone any closer to what they all say they want, which is much-needed reforms at the Port Authority.