New Jersey governor Chris Christie is under intense public scrutinization for his decision to fire a top aide that was instrumental in September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, which new information suggests was used to settle political scores amongst lawmakers.
The bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey with New York City is, according to the Chicago Tribune, one of the busiest spans in the world. When the lanes were closed for four days in September, massive problems including the delay of ambulances and school buses due to lengthy traffic jams occurred.
In September, these lane closures abruptly appeared without much explanation, but recently-surfaced email and text message evidence suggest the closures may have been a calculated plot to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to support the governor.
“I was punished because I guess I didn’t support the governor in his re-election bid,” Sokolich explained to CBS New York.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” reads one of the emails sent by top Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly to a Port Authority executive weeks before the lane closures.
Christie continues to insist that he was not aware of Kelly’s actions, or the politically-motivated reason for the bridge's lane closures. Whether or not the governor was aware of Kelly's political intent, the lane closures caused significant problems for individuals living in Fort Lee.
According to NJ.com, the lane closures prohibited emergency medical responders from attending to several medical situations in Fort Lee. A new report from The Record demonstrates that the response times of medical responders essentially doubled throughout the four-day gridlock.
According to the report, on the first day of the traffic backup an emergency crew took seven to nine minutes to respond to a car accident. Typical response time on the bridge is less than four minutes.
The most significant and tragic outcome of the lane closures was the death of a 91-year-old Fort Lee woman. It took seven minutes for emergency responders to meet the woman, who died of cardiac arrest later at the hospital. Whether or not a more rapid response time would’ve saved the woman’s life is uncertain.
While Christie may escape political fallout by proving his innocence in shutting down traffic lanes on the bridge, he will have to live with the fact that his team is responsible for the detrimental delays suffered by emergency medical teams, school buses and commuters alike.