The Bridgegate Trial

Gov. Chris Christie, in happier times, with a supporter at a campaign event at the Glory Days Bar & Grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, October 30, 2015.

George Washington Bridget –more commonly known as former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, a well-known paragon of veracity, who like the founding father never told a lie and who some day might be memorialized by renaming it the George Washington Bridget for her work in making it the most famous bridge in America— finally took the stand on Friday (Oct. 21, 2016).

After sitting there in the federal courtroom in Newark like a Boar’s Head Smoked Black Forest Ham a delicatessen counter for five weeks, while she and the man she worked so diligently advancing his reputation as New Jersey’s best governor since Corzine, were being disparaged, she finally had a chance to speak up.

It was a traffic study, she explained under oath.

Now if you don’t believe a disgraced former deputy chief of staff to the nation’s most overweight governor about the closure of two traffic lanes at the Fort Lee tollbooths, whom do you believe?

I believe her.

As I explained in 2014, when the issue made the sort of bridge news headlines not seen since the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (“Galloping Gertie”) fell down in 1940, traffic is a science with many variables, largely untested.

What would happen, for example, if all traffic would be banned from using a bridge? It would last longer; need fewer costly repairs, probably. Tolls would not rise continually, indeed be reduced completely, except in New Jersey where the money is needed so the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey could play the game of real estate developers, building skyscraper office buildings in downtown New York, which already has a surfeit of unrented office space, all of which has nothing to do with its original mission, being bridges, tunnels, and mass transit. But that is anecdotal, one of many possible theories that needed further study.

What is known is that traffic on the GWB—or the George W. Bush Bridge, as Republicans like to think of it–-is always bad. On a normal weekday morning, even without lane and tollbooth pattern revision, the original proposal being tested in the study, traffic is backed up all the way to Wilkes-Barre.

Traffic, you should know, is a major cultural issue in New Jersey. Maneuvering our congested highways is art form, filled with drama, mystery and intrigue. We don’t discuss our secrets in public, lest others use the same routes, creating unwanted jams, a disservice currently being promulgated by the success of the WAZE app.

A trafficentric state, we have more cars per capita, the heaviest density on the most highway mileage per state. We are first in cloverleafs, roadways in need of repair and percentage of local bridges in danger of falling down (35%, according to state engineers) and the only state Transportation Fund in bankruptcy.

Inquiring minds at the Port Authority science department might have been justified in positing the question: what would happen if four of the busiest lanes were forced into one toll booth at the height of the morning and evening rush hours for four days (Sept. 9-13), coinciding with the start of the school year.

In the interests of science, when the thesis was tested, the study found conclusively, beyond reasonable doubt, that a traffic jam would occur, in fact, the mother of all traffic jams. The whole Democratic town of Fort Lee, with a Democratic mayor who stubbornly refused to endorse His Rotundity for governor in 2013, was turned into a parking lot.

Ipso facto, the controversial, much maligned, long overdue traffic study can be judged a success. It took courage for the traffic safety scientists and political hacks serving on the Port Authority’s board of governors to conduct the study, which Kelly and her co-road warrior now stand in the dock the past five weeks.

In a fair and less politicized environment, such a study would need no defense. It opens up new areas of bridge science. What, for example, might happen if civil defense authorities warned the public about an impeding natural disaster, say, the island of Manhattan subsiding like Atlantis due to the aggregate weight of concrete being poured during the previous Bloomberg administration policy of a skyscraper condo on every midtown street.

It may seem paranoid, but I lived through the first nuclear age (1950’s) when civil authorities were urging New York citizens to have an escape route for getting out of town fast! What if Trump’s friendship with his pal Putin today led to nuclear warfare? Especially when the tollbooths are privatized in the free market, and not so E-Z-passes are replaced by pay-as-you-go tolls (based on supply side economics, i.e., all the traffic will bear).

More than the calumny heaped on the study, it deserved the Traffic Watchers Society of America’s highest award, the coveted Four Cones.

Instead of getting a professor from Rutgers to write up the experiment for the Journal of Traffic Studies, acclaiming Bridget and her cohorts as heroes of the open roads, the Trenton gang that couldn’t shoot straight made the mistake of acting like rats leaving the sinking ship. “Time for some legal problems” will be the left behind George Washington Bridget’s epitaph.

As for the trial itself, what has been going on for the last five weeks is a travesty. The federal prosecutors are trying to pin it all on the big cheese, the arch villain behind the alleged skullduggery. So far, our own Gov. Wide Load is coming out of it smelling as sweet as the Passaic River at low tide.

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Marvin Kitman
October 24, 2016

Marvin Kitman’s next book is “Chris Christie’s Expense Account.”

Public Domain Photo of the George Washington Bridge by National Park Service Photographer Jack E. Boucher from Wikimedia Commons.