Team 12 Investigates: Port Authority leaves drivers in the dark with crossing concerns
A Team 12/Kane In Your Corner investigation finds the Port Authority is keeping drivers in the dark about conditions at the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.
The tunnels are used by hundreds of thousands of people every day. But with both nearing 100 years old, some drivers wonder just what kind of shape they’re in.
“You can see they're extremely old. And they look their age,” says Richard Cohen.
“To tell you truth, I was kind of like am I under the water right now? Because I'm about to take a pretty significant bath here,” adds Steve Clements.
Under the Freedom of Information Law, Team 12 obtained the latest inspection reports on the tunnels, from March 2020. But when Senior Investigative Reporter Walt Kane dug through them, he found page after page was blacked out.
“They've made the document completely ineffective and not capable of being understood,” says Walter Luers, an attorney and trustee of the New Jersey Foundation on Open Government.
The Port Authority says the redactions were made for security reasons, but Luers says, “These are public safety issues. And the public absolutely has a right to know the status of repairs and whether or not important or essential repairs are being made.”
The Holland Tunnel inspection describes the crossing as in “good condition” overall but says 29 priority repairs are needed at 103 locations. There is no way to find out what those repairs are because of the 285 pages in that inspection report, 260 were mostly or totally blacked out.
Inspectors also found the Lincoln Tunnel to be in good shape overall, except for the roadway in the south tunnel, which inspectors said had badly deteriorated concrete under the roadway. Again, finding out more details was almost impossible. Of the 313 pages in this report, just 12 weren't redacted.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Team 12 Investigates - Failing Foundations
Port Authority spokesperson Amanda Kwan defended the redactions, saying, “The security of millions of motorists who entrust us with their safe passage through our bridges and tunnels is of utmost importance. We take every step to ensure these facilities remain safe and secure.”
Luers doesn’t buy that, noting the Port Authority redacted everything from routine repairs to parts of the table of contents.
“There may be specific nuggets of information in there that could be legitimate security concerns,” Luers says. “But the way these reports have been completely redacted or at least so broadly redacted, it really looks like instead of trying to protect the public interest, the Port Authority is trying to protect itself.”
This isn’t the first time Team 12 encountered an apparent lack of transparency from the Port Authority. Last week, Kane In Your Corner found dozens of outstanding priority repairs on the George Washington Bridge, some dating back over a decade.
MORE: Team 12 Investigates - Port Authority ignored priority repairs on George Washington Bridge before restoration
The Port Authority invited Kane and his photographer to tour the bridge and see the $2 billion restoration that’s underway. But when asked about the inspections, the bridge’s general manager repeatedly said he had not seen the reports and could not comment.