NEW YORK—The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey formally apologized for the George Washington Bridge lane closures from September at its first board meeting of the year Feb. 19.
“On behalf of the board of commissioners, we are deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused to our travelers,” said Chairman David Samson.
“I cannot allow this agency to be mischaracterized by the actions of a few individuals,” Samson said.
Samson was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration is at the center of the bridge scandal, as well as accusations of withholding Sandy recovery money. Samson was implicated in both last month, and had not addressed the public since. Christie has denied knowing about the lane closures prior to the scandal appearing in reports.
At the beginning of the board meeting, Samson praised the creation of the Special Oversight Committee to improve governance at the transportation agency, which met for the first time Wednesday morning.
“When the facts unfold—and they will unfold—the public will have the complete picture,” Samson said.
Port Authority vice chairman Scott Rechler, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will head the committee with commissioner Richard Bagger. Bagger, appointed by Christie, will be vice chairman of the committee.
“I think the Port Authority owes the patrons of our facilities an apology for what happened,” Bagger said after the committee meetings.
“We’re apologizing for the fact that it became at least abundantly clear that some of the members of the Port Authority shut down lanes and put public safety at risk,” Rechler said.
Rechler said the oversight committee would not be an investigative one, and would not duplicate the ongoing investigations, but learn from them moving forward.
“The goal of this committee is not to produce a report that sits on the shelf that no one reads—this is going to be a committee of action,” Rechler said. “Everything’s on the table here.”
The authority was “formed with good intentions” almost a hundred years ago, Rechler said, but “a hundred years is a long time, and a lot of things have changed since then.”
Commissioner William Schuber had suggested an apology at the committee meeting and said the authority had become fraught with “two independent lines of authority” from the two states.
The board approved a 10-year capital plan the same day, which officials stressed is a good sign of the authority returning to its core mission of building and maintaining transportation infrastructure.