GWB – Gosh, What Backup?

The George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City has the distinction of being the busiest vehicular traffic bridge in the world.  With 12 lanes (six lanes on two levels) of traffic, what else would you expect but madness?

The politicos are getting their spans in an uproar of a controversial, unannounced lane closure on the bridge for several days back in September, specifically the access lanes from the town of Fort Lee on the Jersey side.  Not coincidentally, the closures coincided with the 9/11 Anniversary.

The uproar over this bureaucratic snarl has reached the Congressional level.  A U.S. Senator, a Democrat from West Virginia, no less, wants to hold a Congressional investigation on who closed the Fort Lee access lanes and why.  A back-up on the GWB?  My gosh!  Hold the presses, Media!!

Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D) is bound and determined to get to the bottom of this outrageous mystery (!).  His announcement made the headlines of The Bergen Record, the paper of record for all things GWB.  If he’d read any articles in the BR, he would know that Fort Lee has been complaining for years about his town’s strangled streets whenever there’s an accident, road maintenance, or suicidal maniac on the bridge, causing an instant 10-mile back on Routes 80, 46, and 4, as well as other roads on the approaches to the GWB.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the N.J. Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committees, who is continuing his probe, will use his subpoena powers to request Port Authority documents and compel staff to testify at public hearings.

He told the Bergen Record, “I want to get to the bottom of how this could happen and how this agency can exist for so long, when it appears that there is an iron curtain between the [New York and New Jersey sides].”  Investigators can look at the Port Authority, Wisniewski charged, but can’t touch them.  They can’t do anything about what they’re doing.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) is a joint venture between the States of New York and New Jersey and authorized by the US Congress, established in 1921 (as the Port of New York Authority) through an interstate compact, that oversees much of the regional transportation infrastructure, including bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports, within the Port of New York and New Jersey. This 1,500 square mile district is the region generally within 25 miles of the Statue of Liberty.  The Port Authority is headquartered at 225 Park Avenue South in Manhattan.

The Port Authority operates the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, which handled the third largest amount of shipping of all ports in the United States in 2004 and the largest on the Eastern Seaboard.  The Port Authority also operates Hudson River crossings, including the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the GWB.  The PA is also responsible for three crossings that connect New Jersey with Staten Island. The Port Authority Bus Terminal and the PATH rail system are also run by the Port Authority, as well as LaGuardia, JFK International, Newark-Liberty International, Teterboro and Stewart International airports. The agency has its own 1,600-member Port Authority Police Department, which is responsible for providing safety and deterring criminal activity at Port Authority facilities.

Although the Port Authority manages much of the transportation infrastructure in the area, most bridges, tunnels, and other transportation facilities are not included. The New York City Department of Transportation is responsible for the Staten Island Ferry and for the majority of bridges in the city. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is responsible for other bridges and tunnels in the area.  New York City Transit Authority is in charge of NYC buses and subways.  Metro North and the Long Island Railroad (all four are divisions of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority), and buses, commuter rail, and light rail are operated by New Jersey Transit, all independent of PANYNJ.

The Port of New York Authority was established on April 30, 1921, through an interstate compact between New Jersey and New York.  This was the first such agency in the United States, created under a provision in the U.S. Constitution permitting interstate compacts The idea for the Port Authority was conceived during the Progressive Era (so says Wikipedia), which aimed at the reduction of political corruption and at increasing the efficiency of government. With the Port Authority at a distance from political pressures, it was able to carry longer-term infrastructure projects irrespective of the election cycles and in a more efficient manner. Throughout its history, there have been concerns about democratic accountability, or lack thereof at the Port Authority.

That’s how, Assemblyman Wisniewski.  If you want to know who was responsible for this bureaucrat behemoth, you have only to look to the date of April 1921, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was Governor of New York state.

Roosevelt’s partner in progressive, bureaucratic crime was New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards.  Edwards was a creature of the Democrat political machine.  His best buddies were political bosses.  Eventually, he was implicated in an electoral fraud scandal.  Edwards’ luck ran out quickly.  His wife died in 1928.  He went broke in the Wall Street crash of 1929 and when he was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1931, he committed suicide in his Jersey City home.

Still, New Jersey, New York and Long Island can be thankful to Edwards and Roosevelt for the George Washington Bridge.  Construction began in 1928, making interstate commerce possible between the city and Long Island and the rest of the country to the west.  The bridge opened up the New Jersey suburbs to the crowds of Long Islanders, New Yorkers, and Westcherites looking for greener, less expensive pastures.  By the Sixties, a second level was added to the bridge.

The GWB was also a boon to drug dealers and their customers and terrorists.  The former found their customers could cross the bridge from Bergen County to make their purchases and the latter saw it as a juicy target, much juicier than the World Trade Center.  Horrible as its destruction was, if you think it’s terrible that it’s taken over 12 years to restore Ground Zero, destroying the bridge would have wreaked havoc on commerce for even more years.

The Democrats believe that this unannounced closure was payback by Gov. Christie’s Republicans for the lack of support by Fort Lee’s mayor.  The Dems are hoping this crisis will ruin Christie’s 2016 election year chances.  Maybe the lack of an official announcement was simply to keep the terrorists from finding out.  It certainly was a dangerous time to make such an attempting, tempting Fate to protect the bridge and its commuters.

Long back-ups are no surprise to regular users of the George Washington Bridge.  If an investigation wasn’t such a waste of taxpayers’ money in bad economic times, commuters would probably laugh at the notion of a Congressional investigation.  So many back-ups have tied up the bridge for hours, including one on September 11, 2001, that the idea is risible.

Traffic backs up on that bridge for myriad reasons.  What do you expect from the busiest bridge in the world?  If Congress wants to investigate a GWB back-up, they’d do better investigating the one that kept traffic stalled on the bridge as Mohammed Atta flew his plane overhead and on into the World Trade Center about ten miles down-river, as the terrorist flies.

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Published in: on December 17, 2013 at 11:39 am  Comments (1)  

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