Ft. Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich says mysterious September shutdown was punishment, gridlocked the city

There is no official explanation about why several feeder lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed in September, but it clearly caused major headaches for drivers in Fort Lee. (1/8/14)

FORT LEE - There is no official explanation as to why several feeder lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed in September, but Fort Lee's mayor says it clearly caused major headaches for drivers in his city.

Mayor Mark Sokolich and Gov. Chris Christie went to law school together at Seton Hall, but didn't know each other. They forged a relationship when Sokolich, a democrat, became mayor six years ago. He says he hopes the governor wasn't directly involved.

The whole issue centers on three lanes where traffic from downtown Fort Lee flows directly into the toll plaza and the George Washington Bridge. During the closure, the three lanes were reduced to one.

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The Port Authority has been vague about the closures, only saying it was part of a traffic study. But two top agency officials resigned in the wake of the scandal.

Sokolich says if Christie was involved, it was because he didn't endorse Christie in the last election. He says he's disheartened that the retribution may have been motivated by something he did not do, rather than something he did do.

"The message is ‘it's either my way or the highway,’" Sokolich says. "And we're gonna abuse you, but while we abuse you, we're also going to put your entire community in harm's way."

For four days, the lanes that lead to the George Washington Bridge were gridlocked.

Mayor Sokolich says the traffic put stress on first responders and schools, impeded ambulances and impeded the search for a missing 4-year-old girl. He feels his city deserves an apology.

Sokolich says the emails released today are simply a confirmation of what he had hoped was not true.

"Somebody has to answer for this," says Donald Balestri, a Fort Lee resident.

The mayor welcomes an investigation into the incident and hopes safeguards will be put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.
 

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