December 13, 2013

So this was such a little thing that Christie dismissed it as beneath his attention -- except for the part where he called Andrew Cuomo to complain that the investigation was too... effective. Gee, Chris, you do know Cuomo's a Democrat with presidential ambitions of his own, right?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week to complain about a Cuomo appointee's handling of a growing controversy over traffic pattern changes on the George Washington Bridge, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.

Messrs. Cuomo and Christie share control of the Port Authority, which oversees Hudson River bridges and tunnels and the region's airports and is rebuilding the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan.

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey have accused Christie appointees of ordering the lane closures to punish Fort Lee's mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing the governor's re-election campaign. Mr. Christie's campaign has denied that, and his Port Authority team has said the lanes were closed to study traffic on the bridge.

A spokesman for Mr. Christie said the governor talks to Mr. Cuomo regularly "on any number of mutual-interest topics. Those conversations are private."

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment.

The call between the governors was an illustration of how the controversy has mushroomed into a headache for Mr. Christie. One of his top representatives at the authority, David Wildstein, resigned last week, citing the bridge closures. Democratic calls for the resignation of another top authority aide, Bill Baroni, have escalated this week.

It wasn't clear how Mr. Cuomo responded to Mr. Christie's call or if it was the first time Mr. Christie had lodged a complaint.

The exchange appears to stand in contrast to Mr. Christie's public remarks on the bridge matter. At a briefing on Dec. 2, the governor mocked a legislative inquiry on the lane closures and joked that he himself had moved the traffic cones that winnowed local access to the bridge.

Mr. Baroni told lawmakers in November that the incident was the result of a traffic study to determine if the lanes should be permanently taken away from the local access ramp in Fort Lee and used for traffic coming from the local highway.

That statement didn't precisely match the authority's initial written response to complaints about the lane closures, which said the authority was studying "traffic safety."

Mr. Foye, testifying under oath on Monday after receiving a subpoena, said he didn't believe Mr. Baroni's version of the events was true. "I'm not aware of any traffic study," he said.

It wasn't clear if the call occurred before or after Mr. Foye testified under oath about the bridge incident before a New Jersey legislative committee led by Democrats.


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