By KEVIN O”TOOLE Working in New York City means having to worry that being just 5 minutes late in the morning will mean sitting in traffic to cross the George Washington Bridge. Those 5 minutes will cause you to miss a meeting, make you late for work and set your whole day back by hours, unless of course you are from Fort Lee – then you have nothing to fear. If you’re one of the 4,800 commuters from Fort Lee traveling into New York City then you have special lanes to cross the GWB, the remaining 100,000 commuters are not so
On Monday, November 25th partisan hearing as to why Fort Lee residents were given only 1 dedicated lane to cross the GWB instead of their usual 3 lanes. This sideshow was designed to seek “answers” as to why 4,800 commuters were inconvenienced and not why the remaining 100,000 commuters experience daily delays due to a sweetheart deal exclusively for Fort Lee.
The chairman of that Committee and his fellow Democrats conducted this hearing to repeatedly hammer one of Governor Christie’s appointments to the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, in an attempt to score political points against the Governor. They ignored facts and refused to ask why the majority of New Jersey commuters must suffer.
There are 12 upper level lanes on the GWB – nine for 100,000 commuters and three designated specifically for 4,800 commuters from Fort Lee. Remarkably, with less than five percent of the GWB commuters, Fort Lee is also blessed with a designated exit lane.
Yet five legislative districts, comprised of commuters from Bergen, Essex and Passaic Counties, have more commuters who use the GWB than Fort Lee alone, including nearly 6,400 from my District 40; 6,767 from District 36; 16,870 from District 37, not including Fort Lee; 8,226 from District 38; and 8,316 from District 39.
The nearly 100,000 GWB commuters who are not from Fort Lee have for too long been dealing with daily mind-numbing traffic snags since that one town was given three dedicated lanes and an exit. We deserve to know why Fort Lee was given this sweetheart deal and who thought this was fair? Is your commute time not as valuable as for those from Fort Lee? We deserve transparency and answers to these questions.
During the course of a September traffic study, bridge administrators designated 1 lane to Fort Lee’s 4,800 commuters and the 11 remaining lanes to the nearly 100,000 commuters, not from Fort Lee, who cross the GWB into New York City in the morning.
If we, as Legislators, truly wish to solve the problems that affect most New Jerseyeans then we need to find out how this sweetheart deal came to be. We need to conduct fair and open hearings into why there is a veil of secrecy around the Fort Lee deal. We need to know why 100,000 commuters must worry that being 5 minutes late in the morning will wreak havoc on their day. We need to know why 4,800 commuters get preferential treatment over 100,000.
If my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature genuinely care about helping the commuters who use the GWB in the morning, then perhaps they should focus on more than just 4,800 commuters. There are nine lanes with 100,000 commuters sitting in traffic who could use our help.
Senator Kevin O’Toole represents the 40th District, serving parts of Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties.