TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT: Officials call sudden N.J. lane closures “odd” and “unprecedented”

Lawmakers hear testimony on September traffic study that caused four-hour backups

Traffic Management News December 10, 2013
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Some officials called it a traffic study, while others said it was just plain wrong.


Back in September, David Wildstein of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. ordered to close two Fort Lee local access lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. The move caused four-hour backups, and New Jersey Democrats were calling for the dismissal of Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni during Dec. 9 hearings over the controversial traffic study.


Bridge Manager Robert Durando testified and said Wildstein did not want anyone to know about the lane closures, not even Fort Lee police. Durando thought it was the wrong move, but was afraid he would be terminated if he objected. Other Port Authority officials thought the order was “unprecedented,” “odd,” and “unacceptable.”


Wildstein, who announced he would resign at the end of the year, said the reason for the traffic study was to determine if the lane closures would speed up non-local traffic approaching the George Washington on I-95. However, an independent traffic engineer testified on Dec. 9 and called the lane shift unnecessary because the study could have been performed using computer models. Port Authority traffic engineers also predicted that pinching Fort Lee’s dedicated access lanes would create 600-car backups on local streets until noon every weekday.


Baroni has admitted to knowing about the lane closings prior to the massive traffic tie-up, and Democrat John Wisniewski, who chaired the Assembly transportation committee, said Baroni “has outlived his usefulness as the Port Authority’s executive director.”

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