GW Bridge general manager: ‘Odd’ protocol involved in lane closure decision

TRENTON – The general manager of the George Washington Bridge for the Port Authority backed up a colleague’s testimony today about circumstances that led up to a controversial lane closure at Fort Lee in September.

GM Robert Durando told Assembly lawmakers today that the since-resigned David Wildstein informed him the morning of Sept. 6 that on Sept. 9 lanes would be closed to conduct a traffic study.

“I received a call instructing me to implement this change on Friday, the 6th,’’ Durando said.

 “It was not a typical call,’’ Durando said, because he has had less than a handful of interactions with Wildstein.

Durando also told the committee today that on Aug. 21, Wildstein had asked him if there were any documents in existence relating to Fort Lee having dedicated lanes.

Durando testified as a result of a subpoena issued by the committee, as did his boss earlier today, Cedrick Fulton.

And as Fulton said, Durando also said that this manner of planning and announcing a lane closure was not normal. “Odd,’’ was how Durando termed it.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski asked Durando if he considered doing something further in light of the fact that Wildstein’s directive was unusual.

“It is a well known fact that Mr. Wildstein was one of the ranking New Jersey officials in the Port Authority,’’ Durando said, and that it would have been going outside the chain of command to question this further.

Wildstein turned in a letter of resignation late last week, acknowledging that the lane closures for four days in September had become a distraction. He is a former editor of PolitickerNJ.

Earlier today, Fulton also had said going outside chain of command was not something he did.

“As far as I know,’’ Durando said, this lane closure was something Wildstein wanted to do, but Durando acknowledged he did not question Wildstein’s boss, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.

In addition, he said he did not inform Fort Lee officials about what was going to occur on Sept. 9.

 “I was instructed not to speak to Fort Lee,’’ said Durando, adding Wildstein told him not to do so.  “It would impact the study,’’ Durando said Wildstein told him; “He wanted to see what would naturally happen.’’

“I was concerned about what Mr. Wildstein’s reaction would be” if Wildstein’s directive was not followed, Durando told the panel when asked if he was concerned for his continued employment.  “I respected the chain of command.”

GW Bridge general manager: ‘Odd’ protocol involved in lane closure decision