Transit agency reforms announcement is canceled

AP News
Posted: May 30, 2014 6:22 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New York and New Jersey state lawmakers were planning to unveil proposals for reforms to the agency that runs the George Washington Bridge, but canceled their announcement Friday, saying they weren't ready yet.

The agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, runs bridges and tunnels connecting New Jersey and New York City as well as the PATH train line and the metro area's airports. Its structure has been under intense scrutiny since revelations this year that an official there ordered lanes near the George Washington Bridge to be shut down in a political retribution involving former loyalists to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie has said he was not involved.

The scandal made very public problems at the agency where some top officials are appointed by the governor of New York and some by the governor of New Jersey.

New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who is co-chair of the legislative committee investigating the September lane closures, said Friday that the overhaul proposals just were not ready.

That determination came abruptly Friday morning. A news conference to lay out the plans was scrapped just over an hour before it was scheduled to happen. New York Assemblyman James Brennan was en route to the press conference when he found out it was canceled, said spokeswoman Lorrie Smith.

The decisions to hold and then cancel the announcement caused some head-scratching. A spokesman for Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Weinberg's co-chair on the investigative committee, said he wasn't consulted in the planning of the news conference.

Weinberg said lawmakers were pushing to have them introduced before New York lawmakers go on break next month. To make major changes to the Port Authority, lawmakers in both states would have to approve the same legislation.

Weinberg said there are three major proposals that will be laid out in separate bills.

One would require the Port Authority to comply with the open public records of both states. Currently, the agency has its own system. Weinberg said that measure is relatively straightforward and may be introduced shortly.

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She said the other two measures will take more time.

One would lay out requirements for public hearings before tolls can be raised and the other would address the authority's very governance structure. She said structural changes are still being studied.

The Port Authority itself has announced an internal review of how it works, and the governors of the two states say they are jointly studying the issue, too.

Weinberg said the lawmakers need to get involved, though, for action to happen. "With all due respect to the governors of both states, they've been sitting there and watching since last September."


AP reporters David Porter in Newark and Meghan Barr in New York City contributed.