Text, traffic study dominate latest Bridgegate hearing
The revelation of a deleted text to Gov. Chris Christie at the height of the Bridgegate scandal and the fact that the governor’s Authorities Unit director still believes lanes were closed at the George Washington Bridge for a traffic study were the key takeaways from Thursday’s hearing convened by the Select Committee on Investigation.
In November, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official told the Assembly Transportation Committee that the access lanes were closed in September for a traffic study. The lane closures led to massive traffic jams in Fort Lee and sparked the Bridgegate scandal. Many don’t believe the traffic study story, but it appears Authorities Unit director Regina Egea believes it. She was asked directly if she still thinks there was a legitimate traffic study.
“They (Port Authority officials) produced data. They did not communicate well and there were parts of the study that were not done well, but they did produce data,” Egea said.
Egea told the panel that she has not followed the story in the news so that her memory of events would not be contaminated. Committee member, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty decided to fill her in on how he views things.
“For most people that have looked at the evidence, the only people that still believe there’s a traffic study are people that also believe in the tooth fairy,” Moriarty (D-Turnersville) said.
Like those who have testified before, Egea denied any involvement in the scandal.
“I had no prior knowledge, no participation in the lane realignment at the George Washington Bridge,” Egea said in her short opening statement.
After hearing testimony from other Port Authority officials testifying before the Bridgegate committee in December, Egea said she sent a text message to Christie in which she complimented their professionalism. When asked why the panel didn’t have that text in response to its subpoena, Egea said she deleted it. She explained she used to be inconsistent about which texts she kept and which she deleted, but that has changed under a directive issued by Christie.
“I don’t recall any response,” Egea said when asked if Christie answered her text.
SCI co-chair, Assemblyman John Wisniewski was not thrilled that the text wasn’t turned over to the committee.
“We never got that either from her or the governor,” said Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). “So is it possible that they both simultaneously deleted the same text message? It seems implausible, but we don’t have it from either one of them, and that’s very troubling.”
According to Egea, she didn’t tell any of her bosses as soon as she found out about the lane closures because she thought Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye was investigating the issue. In an email that was forwarded to Egea, Foye wrote that he was going to probe the situation.
Thursday’s hearing could be the final SCI hearing. The co-chairs have indicated the panel will step aside indefinitely as the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues its probe into the unannounced lane closures.