Another N.J. bridge controversy brewing, and a familiar name surfaces

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 9:43am

The George Washington Bridge may not be the only one used in an apparent act of political retribution by appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and a familiar name in that scandal has surfaced anew.

While suggestions that top Christie officials orchestrated traffic jams around the nation's busiest bridge in Fort Lee last year have fueled months of controversy, details have surfaced about another span just to the south.

Last year, the mayor of Jersey City was supposed to meet with the state's transportation commissioner about a construction project that would temporarily close a section of the Pulaski Skyway, an aging bridge and elevated highway badly in need of an overhaul.

But when Democrat Steven Fulop decided not to cross party lines and publicly support Christie's re-election, a meeting with Commissioner James Simpson was canceled.

That information comes from documents that were part of a review of the access lane closures to the George Washington Bridge by lawyers hired by Christie's office.

The skyway meeting was one of several appointments Fulop had with members of Christie's team that were canceled almost simultaneously.

And interviews conducted for the internal report point fingers at a former Christie deputy, Bridget Anne Kelly, who last summer apparently authored the now-infamous email: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

According to a memo about an interview lawyers from the firm Gibson Dunn conducted with the transportation commissioner, "Simpson recalled speaking to Kelly in connection with a cancelled meeting between Simpson and Mayor Fulop."

"In particular, Simpson was scheduled to have a meeting with Mayor Fulop but at some point, Simpson learned from DOT Assistant Commissioner Anthony Attanasio that Kelly had cancelled the meeting," the memo said.

Simpson told the lawyers that a two-year closure of the skyway would impact Jersey City and it required coordination with the city's transportation department.

Simpson was not told why the meeting was canceled, according to the memo. He said she never got back to him despite repeated calls to Kelly in an attempt to reschedule the meeting with Fulop.

The $1 billion dollar rehabilitation project is causing 34,000 cars to be detoured every day, according to state transportation officials.

Simpson did eventually meet with Fulop about the skyway in January.

He had previously questioned whether his meeting with Simpson and other officials had been canceled because of his failure to endorse Christie, a Republican who won reelection easily.

That is at the heart of the George Washington Bridge fiasco - suggestions of political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor for not backing the governor.

Kelly was fired from her job in January.


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