THE NEW SAM-AND-COKIES: In search of a possible traffic study!


Part 3—Real conduct which did occur: Last night, at the start of his cable program, one of the era’s biggest con men offered an overview of the Fort Lee fiasco:
MATTHEWS (1/22/14): Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in San Francisco. Let me start tonight with this:

Like barnacles on a boat, suspicious matters now cling to the New Jersey governor’s office in Trenton. It began with an e-mail from Governor Christie`s office setting the clock for “traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Who struck up that conspiracy which led a deputy chief of staff to simply alert David Wildstein of the bridge authority it was time for that jam-up to occur? Who masterminded the scheme to disrupt traffic holding on—heading into the George Washington Bridge the first day of school? Who scripted the cover-up that the bridge tie-up was the result of a traffic survey?
For the record, Matthews refers to massive traffic jams in Fort Lee, traffic jams involving thousands of cars trying to get to the bridge.

According to Matthews, the claim that this mess was the result of a traffic survey was a “cover-up.” It isn’t clear what Matthews meant by this statement, but factual claims are rarely clear on this cable program.

Did Matthews mean that no traffic study ever took place—that Wildstein closed the access lanes, then concocted a cover story at some later point?

Did Matthews mean that there actually was a traffic study, or something resembling a traffic study, but that it was simply a ruse—an excuse to close the access lanes and throw Fort Lee into chaos?

Whatever! Matthews rarely feels the need to be clear on his cable news program—or even to know his basic facts. As he continued, he said this:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Did the governor himself finally step in to shut down the noise level by calling Governor Cuomo of New York to get him to cool down the investigation into the traffic problems in Fort Lee? And how does anyone in the governor’s circle account for the entry in the journal of Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer that the lieutenant governor had put the squeeze on her, saying the governor put her up to it, to back a development project favored by Christie’s associates, or else forfeit state disaster funds?
In the highlighted statement, Matthews continues advancing the claim that Christie phoned Cuomo to complain. Both governors have said that isn’t true, but Matthews keeps advancing the claim without including that fact.

In fairness, the chances are slim that Matthews knows what Cuomo said last month about that alleged complaint from Christie. Hardball runs on story line, not on actual facts.

But Matthews is hardly alone in his hazy account of the alleged “cover up” surrounding the alleged traffic study. In its lengthy front-page reporting, the New York Times has worked very hard to avoid reporting basic facts behind that alleged traffic study.

Confusion has resulted. Today, we thought we’d show you some of the things you haven’t learned from the Times, in a succession of front-page reports which have been as long as 2800 words.

A great deal of speculation has swirled about those traffic lane closings. Why did Wildstein order them closed? What was his actual motive?

Just yesterday, we articulated a very unpleasant possible theory concerning a billion-dollar development. If something like that theory turns out to be true, then the traffic study was essentially a hoax, a feint designed to shake money loose from a very fat money tree.

Did David Wildstein conduct a hoax connected to that development? We can't tell you that! At this point, there is no dispositive evidence concerning the motives behind his actions.

The alleged traffic study may have been a hoax, a ruse. It may have been designed to hide the actual motive for the lane closings.

That may be what happened. Today, though, we ask a different question:

Is it possible that David Wildstein actually was conducting, or attempting to conduct, a good-faith traffic study? In our view, it hasn’t been yet shown that this wasn’t the case.

Why was Matthews blustering about “the cover-up?” In part, he did so because he knows that’s the story favored on his network. We’ll also assume that he has done little research about what happened that week.

And alas! For people reading the New York Times, many events from that week have essentially disappeared. Tomorrow, we’ll show you the way the Times has reported on the alleged traffic study. For today, let’s run through some of information from last month’s public hearings that the paper has failed to report or discuss.

The Times’ first news report on this topic appeared on December 10. The day before, three bridge officials testified about those events before a New Jersey legislative committee.

On December 10, the Times reported, or pretended to report, the substance of that day-long hearing. Below, we’ll show you some of the things the Times has never reported.

The collection of data

Did a traffic study actually take place that week? Within the reporting which has occurred, that has largely been a matter of semantics.

But as we noted yesterday, there is no doubt that large amounts of traffic data were being collected that week. During the December 9 hearing, Robert Durando, general manager of the bridge, described part of the effort.

For the full transcript, click here:
ASSEMBYLAN WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): At any time on Monday [September 9] did you talk to your traffic experts or engineers within the Port Authority and say, “Hey guys, what do you think?”

DURANDO: We had talked about gathering data, which certainly takes some time to do. Over the ensuing days—the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—data was provided that indicated, from their perspective, that there was a slight improvement in the main line, as we’ve discussed earlier—in main line travel through the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.

WISNIEWSKI: You said, “We.” Who is the “we?”

DURANDO: The traffic folks that Cedrick [Fulton] mentioned earlier who work within Tunnels, Bridges, and Terminals who download and analyze that data.

WISNIEWSKI: And so on Monday they were downloading data?

DURANDO: As it became available. It’s tolls data, so it’s people driving through toll lanes. As toll collectors hit different buttons, it counts those vehicles. So it takes them time to compile it. It’s real-time, so—I mean, it started at 6 in the morning. It would take 24 hours, obviously, to get 24-hour data.

WISNIEWSKI: So on Tuesday you had Monday’s data.

DURANDO: We did.

WISNIEWSKI: And that was submitted to your internal traffic department?

DURANDO: Those were the folks who were gathering the data and looking at it to provide some sort of an analysis…

WISNIEWSKI: So that was provided on a daily basis or obtained on a daily basis by your traffic department?

DURANDO: It was obtained. So for Monday, data was not available until Tuesday. The traffic folks who Mr. Fulton talked about—the planners who would collect the data collected Tuesday’s data, looked at it, analyzed it, did the same thing with Tuesday’s data. By the end of the week, they had made a determination that there was a slight improvement on the main line flow.
This is a basic part of what happened this week. In a succession of front-page reports, one of which ran almost 3000 words, the New York Times has never reported the fact that this data collection occurred.

That data collection may have been part of a hoax. But the data collection did occur. It’s astounding to see the New York Times disappear this basic fact.

The stated rationale for the closings

Whatever actually happened that week, the traffic study was not a “cover story” invented after the fact. Data collection occurred all week. For details, see below.

Earlier, a rationale for the data collection had been given.

In this testimony, Durando described Wildstein’s first notice about the impending action, which occurred on August 21. He then described Wildstein’s first statement about the reason for the lane closings:

“The reason I was given was, to conduct a traffic study.”

Durando was told the lanes would be closed as part of a traffic study. What was the stated rationale for this alleged traffic study?

Durando wasn’t asked that question during the September 9 hearings. Earlier in the day, his boss, Cedrick Fulton, had spoken to that question.

Fulton is director of the George Washington Bridge. In this passage, he described a conversation with Durando:
WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): And what was your conversation with Mr. Durando on Friday, September 6?

FULTON: That we needed to do everything that we could to make this operation work—given the directive that we had received. And to be prepared to revert the operation, if necessary.

WISNIEWSKI: And in your conversation with him, did he at any time raise to you, “Mr. Fulton, what are we doing? Why are we doing this?”

FULTON: We talked about the question that was presented to us—which was, Would the main line work better? And neither one of us had an answer to that question. We could only say that maybe, if there were more lanes dedicated to the main line. But neither one of us could produce the information which would say it for a certainty either way—that not doing it wouldn’t have a significant improvement on the main line.

Mr. Wildstein’s question was, and his directive was one to understand how much better throughput would get, could get on the main line, if we reduced the number of lanes out of Fort Lee?
There you see the rationale for the alleged traffic study. The question was this: Would traffic on I-95 (“throughput”) move faster if the two access lanes from Fort Lee were closed?

That’s a somewhat underwhelming question. Presumably, if traffic onto the bridge was reduced from Fort Lee, pre-existing northbound traffic would automatically move along better.

Still, that was the stated rationale. As such, it’s a basic part of the story.

In another part of his testimony, Fulton described the basic question again, saying he couldn’t answer it at the time it was posed:
FULTON (12/9/13): When he directed that the lanes be reduced, his supposition—and again, we didn’t have this conversation directly, so I’m giving you the best answer that I can.

ASSEMBLYWOMAN CARIDE: And I appreciate that.

FULTON: The question was, if there was only one lane as opposed to three, could the overall throughput through the George Washington Bridge be improved? That was the fundamental question that he was asking, for which I didn’t have an answer.
Later, Fulton explained it again:
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHNSON (12/9/13): When you were directed, or you were advised, I guess, that the bridge was going to be closed, you were told that was for a study?

FULTON: An understanding of what would happen if Fort Lee didn’t have those three lanes.

JOHNSON: And that was for a study?

FULTON: I’m not sure he used the word “study” with me. But it was clearly a desire to understand what would happen if Fort Lee did not have those three lanes.
In testimony on November 25, Bill Baroni had already described this rationale in obsessive detail. In the December 9 hearing, Fulton testified that the rationale had been stated in real time.

As best we can tell, this rationale has never been coherently described in the New York Times. Tomorrow, we’ll show you the way Kate Zernike did describe it in her initial report about this December 9 hearing.

For the record, Wildstein seemed adamant about the need for the study. In this testimony, Fulton again described the stated rationale:
FULTON (12/9/13): After the initial call [on September 6], I called him back again. It was basically the same conversation again—just to restate what I wanted him to understand about the importance of communicating to the Executive Director, recognizing that this would likely become a media event at some point so they needed to be involved.

WISNIEWSKI: Why would it become a media event?

FULTON: Well, it would be highly visible. My exact words were, “This will not end well.”


WISNIEWSKI: Okay. And his response to this was?

FULTON: That the three lanes had been in place for a long—I forget the exact number of years—but that no one, including myself, were able to produce any documentation as to why. And that it was appropriate for him to be able to have a test to understand what the benefits to the main line could be if the lanes were reduced from three to one.
According to Fulton, Wildstein wanted “a test to understand what the benefits to the main line could be if the lanes were reduced from three to one.”

This rationale was clearly explained at the hearing. It certainly isn’t hard to state—unless you’re a front-page reporter for the New York Times.

The findings, such as they were

It seems like a fairly safe bet! If you slow bridge traffic from Fort Lee, pre-existing northbound traffic will be able to cross the bridge faster. That said, data collection proceeded that week, with modest findings observed.

In the first passage posted above, Durando testified to that set of findings: “By the end of the week, [traffic planners] had made a determination that there was a slight improvement on the main line flow.”

In its lengthy, front-page reports, the New York Times has completely skipped this type of information. In smaller, less famous newspapers, real reporting has occurred.

Here’s Shawn Boburg, reporting in the Bergen Country Record:
BOBURG (12/10/13): Internal documents obtained by The Record show that planning for the study began a week-and-a-half before the Sept. 9 lane shift was ordered by Wildstein. They also show that Port Authority traffic engineers predicted that narrowing Fort Lee's dedicated access lanes from three to one would result in 600-vehicle backups on local streets that would not clear until noon each weekday. Wildstein ordered the study anyway, agency officials testified Monday, saying he wanted to see if it would speed up non-local traffic approaching the bridge on Route 95.


At just after 5 p.m. on Thursday, Daniel Jacobs, a manager in the department that oversees tunnels and bridges, emailed Mark Muriello, another high-ranking employee within the department, a document entitled, "Reallocation of Toll Lanes at the GWB: An EARLY assessment of the benefits of the trial."

The report said the lane shift shaved off an average of five minutes for Route 95 drivers over the four days. But the combined delays experienced by motorists from the Fort Lee entrance eclipsed the time saved by other drivers.

The Fort Lee traffic waited a combined additional 2,800 hours during the four busiest morning commuting hours, while Route 95 traffic saved a total of only 966 combined hours over that time. The report referenced the predictions made prior to the test.
Oof! Initial results were extremely poor, as had been predicted.

That said, this reporting cuts several ways. It shows Wildstein blundering ahead into the face of predicted disaster. It also helps us discern a basic point:

Whatever the actual motive for the lane closings may have been, the alleged traffic study was not a “cover story” dreamed up after the fact. For whatever reason, data had been collected and analyzed all week long, producing bad results.

We started with a basic question: Is it possible Wildstein could have undertaken this action in good faith? Is it possible that he was actually trying to conduct a traffic study or test?

Is it possible he was actually looking for a way to improve traffic flow? If so, he seems to have proceeded very stupidly. But stupidity is widely observed all over our world, as you know if you’ve watched cable news in the past fifteen years.

Is it possible that Wildstein conducted this action in something resembling good faith? That this was a work of monumental stupidity ahead of anything else?

We’d have to say that remains a possibility, although other, deeply nefarious motives are entirely possible too. Sensible people will wait for investigations to puzzle such matters out.

That said, if you read the New York Times, there is no need to wait. The Times has already reported, on its front page, that the motive has been “revealed:” Wildstein was trying to punish Fort Lee’s mayor because he didn’t endorse Chris Christie for re-election.

Plainly, that motive hasn’t been established, unless you’re reading the Times. And the real motive may be much worse.

That said, the Times has offered a wide array of bad reporting about the Fort Lee mess, starting with its failed attempts to count two traffic lanes. It has grossly misstated some of the testimony offered by Durando and Fulton—and in a succession of front-page reports, it has said nothing about the data collection which occurred that week.

When Kate Zernike pretended to describe the rationale for the alleged traffic study, she produced an absurd account, as we’ll see tomorrow.

What was Wildstein’s actual motive for these disastrous lane closings? Someday, we may even find out. No explanation seems to make sense. Investigations proceed.

Tomorrow, though, we’ll review what the Times has reported about that alleged traffic study. In our view, the paper’s reporting of this event has allegedly been very poor.

Tomorrow: Semantics is us! How many angels can dance on the head of an alleged traffic study?


  1. Why doesn't Bob pick some reasonable subject matter to use against Maddow and other establishment media liberals--like their lack of support or open hostility to Snowden. There's been plenty of fact-twisting there. There's been a lot of deference to authorities there. There's maybe been some amount of putting career prospects ahead of clear-eyed reporting there. (I don't know that Maddow has been particularly egregious on Snowden, but certainly lots of liberal media like Marshall's TPM were very harsh and now look very wrong.)

    Why this?

    1. Differences of opinion over the meaning of Snowden's actions don't constitute bad journalism. Somerby isn't chastising Maddow for failure to hew to some preferred liberal party line (as you are doing here). He is concerned with her failure to behave according to the ethics and best practices of journalism.

    2. So, basically, Somerby thinks Snowden was a traitor ( or at least a very misguided, self-important miscreant) and not a whistleblower and so had no problem with media figures that portrayed him as such. Ok, that solves that mystery.

  2. Trollmes,

    The real "broken culture" is how the left got terrified after 9-11 and are scurrying about like mice supporting the "war on terror" lock-step and the harsh domestic agenda of the right.

    For the blogger - an unforgivable sin was committed when the "study" was denied. All else takes a back seat. he'll bone-gnaw ad infinitum that "there may have been a study - we have no way of knowing".

    1. There are several ways in which our culture is broken. For Somerby, the sin was reporting a preferred narrative instead of the facts -- not denying a study.

      Is it really a triviality when a governor is accused of lying and cover up with any substantiation, by a press that doesn't bother to report denials or exculpatory facts? That seems large to me.

    2. Correction of typo: "with any substantiation" should be "without any substantiation." Sorry.

    3. "[H]e'll bone-gnaw ad infinitum," and yet you keep coming back here. For ego satisfaction? After all, [sarcasm alert for those who need it] it's clear that you are so much smarter than Bob, in so many ways. Knowledge, the ways of the world. Perhaps you should start your own blog.

    4. "Is it really a triviality when a governor is accused of lying and cover up with any substantiation, by a press that doesn't bother to report denials or exculpatory facts? That seems large to me."

      Yes, it would be "large" if that were what actually happened.

      But you know what? Sometimes journalists see something that looks to be no big deal at first, such as, for instance, a traffic jam or a "third-rate burglary," then they start asking questions, then more questions, then more questions until they uncover something that certain people in power don't want people to know.

      And that is journalism at its finest.

    5. Horace, isn't it a bit early for the "why are you here?" stuff. That's pretty much an admission from the Bobettes that they've got nothing else to argue with.

    6. @3:03 -- journalists who uncover corruption don't publish their suspicions before obtaining facts to support them. They also don't pick and choose the facts available to support their preferred suspicions.

    7. My Gawd, 3:32, either you just fell off the turnip truck or you have never read investigative journalism as a story unfolds.

    8. What we've seen in the NY Times and in MSNBC has been "journalism at its finest"?

      You just can't make up these douchebag trolls.

    9. No, I would say that the Bergen County Record, whose first report during the traffic jam caught the eye of Patrick Foye, and the Wall Street Journal, who really did the heavy lifting after that, have been rather spectacular in following the trail where it leads.

      But the NY Times and MSNBC -- Maddow in particular -- haven't been as nearly as horrible on this story as Bob's loyal followers believe simply on his say-so.

  3. OMB (Stuck in Traffic, We Kill Time by Commenting)

    Detective BOB doesn't know the motive. He doesn't know Matthews's
    meaning. He does, however, know what Matthews's meaning cannot be even if it was what Matthews meant. So he proves it in this post.

    "Whatever actually happened that week, the traffic study was not a “cover story” invented after the fact. Data collection occurred all week. For details, see below."

    So says BOB in what is his cover-his-ass series being conducted in place of admitting his overblown series attacking Rachel Maddow in December was, to put it mildly, overdone.

    He is still out to prove it is the press, not the traffic messboys, who are the guilty party in the missing strawberries caper. His best evidence is that data was planned for in advance, collected and such collection has not been reported in the big time press. For this he goes to the Bergen County Record of December 10, 2013 as his best source:

    "Internal documents obtained by The Record show that planning for the study began a week-and-a-half before the Sept. 9 lane shift was ordered by Wildstein."

    BOB has proven his point. Scratching his chin weasel style, he tells us this study may have been a hoax and a before the fact cover-up or further proof Wilstein is an incompetent dolt, but by BOB there was a study and it should be covered in the press.

    What Detective BOB fails to do at this point for his own mystery readers is put "two and three" together, to use his best attack line on Ms. Zernike.

    Wildstein ordered the closure September 6. A week and a half before that would be the last week of August. August 21 is a date which is mentioned in testimony here in this post.

    Now, what was the date of the exchange between Bridget (Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee) Kelly and David (Got it.) Wildstein? Was that August 13?

    And when was the e-mail revealed? January 9 or 10? 2014? Was it accompanied by other e-mails taking shots at the Mayor of Ft. Lee and snide comments about the affiliation of children's parents? Was the Governor's campaign manager in the e-mail chain?

    Would those e-mails lead a reasonable person who might be employed in the "news" media to conclude the new revelations supported the rumor that the closures had a political motive and that the "study" or "test" as Wildstein referred to it as, was cover for something else? Well we just don't know, but we guess so.

    Let's jump for now, to BOB's hazy conclusion.

    "Is it possible he was actually looking for a way to improve traffic flow? If so, he seems to have proceeded very stupidly. But stupidity is widely observed all over our world, as you know if you’ve watched cable news in the past fifteen years."

    We agreed with BOB, which is why, some time ago, on January 11, 2014, we asked "if (this) true, how stupid is Chris Christie?
    Wouldn't it have been easier in December to have admitted the error, figuratively taken off Wildstein's head in public and move on? But Christie joked about moving cones and opined that Ft. Lee having three lanes had him sauced.

    BOB, like the good people of Ft. Lee lo those four days in September
    is stuck and not moving forward. He was blaming the rich cable boys
    and girls in the fancy cars in front of him back in December. He is still honking at the same damn cars. Like Christie, he's sauced.


    Bonus for Responders: Can you guess what BOB left out when he put the dots in the account from the Bergen County Record?

    The Port Authority officials, compelled to testify under oath on Monday, alternately described Wildstein’s order as “unprecedented,” “odd,” and “unacceptable.” And an independent traffic engineer told lawmakers that the lane shift was not even necessary; the study could have been performed using computer models, without causing reported delays of up to four hours.

    KZ told you the same thing we have highlighted here.

    1. "Whatever actually happened that week, the traffic study was not a “cover story” invented after the fact. Data collection occurred all week. For details, see below."

      For Bob's information, the Port Authority collects this data ALL THE TIME, not just during the week in question.

      But in order to pretend that this was a real, honest-to-goodness "traffic study" that was merely stupid, he has to ignore the testimony of Durando and Fulton, who carefully outlined the painstaking professional planning and procedures that must be followed according to Port Authority protocol in order to do any study, and especially one involving lane closures.

      Plus he also has to ignore the testimony of Foye who said point blank that this was no traffic study.

      Instead, he skims a couple hundred pages of testimony, finds the parts that seems to support his narrative but only if taken out of all context, then rushes to his blog once more to brag about how "right" he is.

    2. "The Port Authority officials, compelled to testify under oath on Monday, alternately described Wildstein’s order as “unprecedented,” “odd,” and “unacceptable.” And an independent traffic engineer told lawmakers that the lane shift was not even necessary; the study could have been performed using computer models, without causing reported delays of up to four hours."

      Repeated for emphasis. I will leave it to Bob's fans to explain what Bob really, really meant by leaving that paragraph out.

      This reminds me of Ann Coulter's famous "footnotes" and the way Somerby once dismantled them by actually looking them up and discovering they didn't say what Coulter claimed they said.

      And now, Somerby has become Ann Coulter, hoping his readers don't look too deeply.

    3. You have posted this same point several times without ever reading the responses to it. Yes, data is collected all the time. It is not analyzed all the time. The study is the analysis, not the collection of the data. The analysis to answer the specific question posed occurred that week, not ALL THE TIME. In order to answer the specific question, they needed to close the lanes and that was done that week, then the impact on traffic flow was analyzed (using the data collected ALL THE TIME). That is the essence of experimental method -- manipulate something and look at the effect on your data.

      Foye is not the relevant person here to be answering whether there was a study of not. Foye's single statement that there was no study cannot contradict the statements of those various other workers who actually performed the analysis and interpretation of the data. Those people testified that there was indeed a study, how ever unnecessary or inconvenient to drivers.

      Finding that the study was unneeded because simulations could have been done, or incompetent, or presaged by an email, doesn't provide any proof that it was done as a cover up or ruse. You still need evidence to call it that and none has been provided yet. That means that those who leap from suspicion to truth are premature. It may turn out that way, but there isn't sufficient support for that conclusion yet.

    4. "Whatever actually happened that week, the traffic study was not a “cover story” invented after the fact. Data collection occurred all week. For details, see below."

      Bob's own words. Not "analysis" but "collection." He thinks this was an actual "study" because data was collected.

      I do agree that this excuse was not invented "after the fact" for the simple reason that Wildstein could not tell the pros, Durando and Fulton, to shut down the lanes because he had orders from the governor's office to "create traffic problems in Fort Lee."

      It was, however, a cover story concocted before the fact. And communicated for the first time to Fulton and Durando three days before the lanes were to be closed.

    5. By the way, why do you think the Port Authority collects this data all the time? Because they can? Or they want to analyze it?

    6. "Foye is not the relevant person here to be answering whether there was a study of not."

      Of course. He's only the executive director of the Port Authority, who must "sign off" on all such studies.

    7. "In order to answer the specific question, they needed to close the lanes..."

      Sez who?

      No, really. That is the question. Bridget Kelly? David Wildstein? Which one of these people has the education and professional experience to be conducting "traffic studies"? How many other "studies" have they conducted in a similar manner?

    8. @3:56 -- they collect it all the time to calculate toll revenues.

    9. And to measure traffic flow.

      Look, don't take anybody's word for it. Click on the link Bob provided (probably thinking you wouldn't) and read the FULL testimony of Fulton, Durando and Foye about what a REAL traffic study looks like, all the steps you take before you close lanes for ANY reason, all the advance planning that is done to make sure you get the answers to the questions you are asking, and ask yourself how it could all be done between Friday morning, when Wildstein ordered Durando to do it, and Monday morning.

      Then put it all in the context of Bridget Kelly's e-mail a few weeks earlier to Wildstein, and Wildstein's response.

      In other words, do what Bob doesn't want you to do. Think.

    10. Think doesn't mean "assume the worst possible interpretation because these are Republicans before investigation sheds light on what happened".

    11. I'm sorry; I can't help it. It's a conditioning kind of thing.

    12. Well, 12:55, investigation by the Wall Street Journal and by the Assembly committee had already shed quite a bit of light on what happened (and didn't happen) well before this story broke nationally.

      But you go ahead and pretend that this was all ginned-up for partisan purposes, and it still could be some sort of real traffic study gone amiss. After all, Bob says so.

  4. Just keep asking the question of why the Deputy COS emailed "time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee" - all the rest is just fluff.

    1. That e-mail has been thrown down the memory hole. Doesn't fit the narrative that this maybe, possibly, could have been a real study that was simply done poorly with no other motive than that. We don't know.

    2. I haven't forgotten the email. It's only one of the things that don't make sense. Others: the violation of all protocols for designing traffic studies and getting them approved. the fact that a finance guy was initiating a traffic study, why computer simulation wasn't even proposed let alone used, why it took four days to stop the lane closures. I'm sure there are more.

      So. Someday, we may even find out. No explanation seems to make sense. Investigations proceed.

      Where did I just hear that?

    3. As I pointed out weeks ago, they could have sent an email in LA concerning the shutdown of the 405 saying "Time for some traffic problems in West LA." That was for CalTrans construction. The email itself says nothing about why the lanes were being closed.

      If Wildstein has a pet peeve while sitting at the bridge entrance, fantasizing that he would be across the bridge if it weren't for all those cars entering from Ft. Lee, he may have wanted to close the lanes to speed up traffic over the bridge. You cannot do that without testing first. It isn't unusual for a boss (without specific traffic engineering training) to meddle with the functioning of his department to suit his pet theories about something. I had a boss once who thought we shouldn't advertise our computer products because Hershey never advertised its chocolate bars and look how successful they were. It took a lot of arguing to get him to let go of that one. This could be such a misguided meddling by a political appointee in the operations of a technical department. I have no trouble believing someone could be that stupid.

    4. So Anon: 6:31, you have been thinking about this for weeks, obviously.

      So tell me. If a Governor who wants to be President allows his appointee to a major bistate authority to hire a stupid meddler, and stupid meddler does something totally boneheaded that causes a legislative investigation. Do you:

      A) Stand by Meddler and make jokes about the damage he has done.

      B) Fire Meddler's ass and place a plaque commemorating his public service on the site in the Meadowlands where they couldn't find Jimmy Hoffa's bones.

      C) Prove you are a bigger bonehead by waiting until you are blindsided and betrayed by Meddler's e-mails a month later.

    5. Wildstein was the first guy gone.

  5. OMB (Because this is too good to pass up)

    This Cover Your Ass on the Cover Up on Conegate. is, of course, just about journalists. We are told Kate Zernike of the NY Times has left things out and misrepresented facts. Remember the truncated testimony BOB quoted to show the NY Times was inventing that the GW Bridge manager, Roberto Durando feared his job was on the line if he did not follow Wildsteins orders? Here is a little more of that testimony. What Cecelia Mc might call "context."

    "WISNIEWSKI.....My question to you is: Was the reason you chose
    not to exercise that discretion is because you feared for your employment?

    MR. DURANDO: I was concerned about what Mr. Wildstein’s
    reaction would be if I did not follow his directive.

    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Does Mr. Wildstein -- or
    did Mr. Wildstein -- well, he currently still works for the Port Authority --
    does Mr. Wildstein have the ability to terminate your employment?

    MR. DURANDO: I suspect he does."

    .............BOB starts quoting here.............

    "ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: So would it be fair to say
    that you did have a concern about your continued employment if you went outside of his direction?

    MR. DURANDO: I honestly don’t know how to answer you.

    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Well, either you did or you

    MR. DURANDO: Well, I was not fearful that I was going to
    get fired."

    ..............BOB stops quoting here........................

    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: So then why didn’t you--

    MR. DURANDO: Because I didn’t want to tempt fate.
    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: So you thought it was a

    MR. DURANDO: Anything is possible, Mr. Chairman.

    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: So for a decision you felt
    was odd, you didn’t want to speak up because you thought anything was possible. Is that fair?

    MR. DURANDO: That’s fair."

    Yes. Anyhing is possible.


    1. KZ, these additional sentences don't change anything. I saw this guy testifying in video and he didn't want to say he was afraid to speak up because he would be fired. The questioner tried mightily to put those words into his mouth.

      Why would someone speak up over something like this when it would affect the convenience of commuters in cars, not anything major?

    2. You may read BOB a lot but not get it, Anon @ 6:35.
      Anything is possible.


  6. OMB (But Wait! There's More)

    More the dastardly press and BOB have left out of the S&K CYA/CUC series.

    "ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: How many times in the
    past have you or someone instructed you to divert lanes in order to do a traffic study on the George Washington Bridge?

    MR. DURANDO: This was the first time.

    ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: And you’ve been with the
    Port Authority for 35 years?

    MR. DURANDO: Yes, sir."


    1. OMB (But It is Possible It Might Be In Good Faith)

      ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: So you thought there was
      careful deliberation when you were asked by Mr. Wildstein to close the lanes?

      MR. DURANDO: I was told that the people who needed to
      know were going to be made aware of the change.

      ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: That’s not the question I
      asked you. My question is: Was there careful deliberation prior to this decision being implemented?

      MR. DURANDO: With regard to this study?


      MR. DURANDO: No, sir, there was not.

      ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI: Did you know that at the
      time you made the decision to go ahead and accede to Mr. Wildstein’s demands?

      MR. DURANDO: I knew that we had not been involved in
      any discussion to plan a traffic study involving the Fort Lee lanes.

    2. I draw your attention to page 174 of the transcript where Foye clearly states this was no traffic study.

      But what does Foye know compared to what Bob doesn't know?

    3. Foye did not know the lanes were closed for four days.
      His opinion may be disregarded.

    4. And he was hopping mad when he found out. But of course we "may" disregard all that, because after all what possibly could the Executive Director of the Port Authority possibly know how serious, legitmate, good-faith studies are done, and who needs to sign off on lane closures?

      Oh those stubborn, stubborn facts!

    5. Executive Director makes him pretty far removed from daily operations, with his focus outward on other organizations, not downward toward his employees. No question he was embarrassed and denial of knowledge is necessary to protect his job, since if he knowingly let such a study go forward, the blame would be on him instead of Wildstein. So Foye has a strong motive to deny there was a study.

    6. Well, he didn't consider himself too far removed from daily operations when he wrote his e-mail ordering the lanes re-opened IMMEDIATELY, then spelling out the procedures (already in place) to prevent this happening again, including him signing off on it in advance.

    7. My guess would be the guy at 5:45 was pulling somebody's leg.

  7. OMB (There Really is No Explanation Why The Press Hasn't Told Us)

    BOB decried that the press hadn't covered all the data collection done
    on a routine basis daily by the PA which they in September started looking at to see the impact of Blogger Wildstein's experiment.
    Maybe if BOB told you they heard this testimony it might explain why.

    ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: So this traffic -- so-called
    traffic study -- you said that they were gathering data. Has there been a
    traffic study presented anywhere as a result of that closure that week?

    MR. DURANDO: I have not seen anything, no.

    ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: So has anything been done
    with the data that would substantiate the premise that there was a traffic study going on?

    MR. DURANDO: Other than a verbal -- with regard to the
    slight improvement to main line traffic flow, I have seen no report.

    ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: So it really calls into
    question whether there was, in fact, any traffic study done, when they were just gathering data.

    MR. DURANDO: One could reach that conclusion.

    ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: Because a traffic study
    would mean that all of that data would have been sent out for additional,
    further study to speak to this issue of whether these lanes should exist or not.

    MR. DURANDO: Studies should result in a conclusion, yes.

    ASSEMBLYWOMAN STENDER: And there were none.


    1. There would have been analysis to determine that the improvement was slight. (Without analysis, you do not know the size of the improvement.) If it was slight, there is no point in writing up a report, since it is an idea that failed. You do not publish results of studies that find no differences, no effect, no benefit, no improvement. Not every study testing an idea succeeds. The purpose of a report is to transmit findings to others for some additional purpose, such as suggesting a permanent reduction in lanes. It doesn't sound like the size of the improvement in traffic flow would justify that, so there is no point in putting in the effort to write up the results in a report. This is especially true given the outcry over the lane closures.

    2. Anonymous @6:43, Although I'm less sure of your comment's origin, I'm no more convinced by it than is mm. Studies that find no results are valuable for that very fact. And in a bureaucracy as large as the Port Authority, it seems unlikely that the missing post-trial report wasn't as mandated as the missing pre-trial authorization.

      The semantic points of Assemblywoman Stender that KZ finds so important don't tell us much. We know this wasn't an authorized study following the Authority's guidelines. What was it and why was it? Hoax, ruse, teh stoopid?

    3. "Time to create traffic problems in Fort Lee."

      "Got it."

      Does that help?

    4. My dear friend deadrat writes:

      "The semantic points of Assemblywoman Stender that KZ finds so important don't tell us much."

      I attached no importance to Stenders remarks. It seemed a logical place to stop. I do salute her for not ending the exchange with something like:

      Stender: So a study may have been done in good faith, then. Because anything is possible. We just don't know.

    5. Is that you KZ? If so, isn't there some traffic jam in the Main Asteroid Belt that you have to look into?

      Do us all a favor. Take your time, do it right.

    6. We are doing a study on the possibility of elevating the status of your species when our plans for Earth are finalized.


  8. Is it possible that David Wildstein actually was conducting, or attempting to conduct, a good-faith traffic study? In our view, it hasn’t been yet shown that this wasn’t the case.


    Tomorrow: Semantics is us! How many angels can dance on the head of an alleged traffic study?

    If the Executive Director of an agency and the two highest non-politcal guys in charge of operating a bridge crap on the idea there ever was a study in sworn testimony, how many bloggers will still wallow in the possibility of the study in post after post after post?

    Our Teaser: Tomorrow: Stawberry Compote in Geometric Shapes.

  10. Glad BOB was touting the work of Shawn Boburg of the Bergen County Record. Rachel had him on her show tonight to talk about this all consuming scandal. He failed to mention the study.

    1. My apologies. That gem was a gift from your old friend...


    2. What? Boburg failed to mention the "study" which is so clearly "possible", "maybe," "coulda happened that way"?

      Obviously another partisan hack in cahoots with the DNC and some conservatives and Republicans to bring down Christie. (See: Somerby, December, 2013.)

      And obviously, like those pesky reporters in Virginia, creating a huge scandal over piddly little things just to feed our Scandal Culture. (Somerby, January 2014).

    3. Oh no! Even Uncle Drum has abandoned us.

  11. Bob's last known friend in the blogosphere has issued a thorough debunking:

    1. 12:40 again. Obvious cross-post with 12:39.

    2. Didja even bother to read your source? It says TDH is right. Well, grudgingly Drum says "technically" right. But that's right, there was no "legitimate" study, the kind run by traffic engineers according to Port Authority protocols.

      But nobody, including TDH, maintains otherwise.

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