WATCHING STORY GROW: Concerning that alleged traffic study!


Interlude—What the AP said: With apologies, we want to show you an AP report we didn’t see until this very morning.

The report appeared last Saturday. In an overview of the thousands of pages of emails and texts which were released the day before, two AP reporters mused about the “traffic study” which devoured Fort Lee.

Overall, the AP report painted an unflattering picture of the conduct of the Christie team during and after the now-famous lane closings.

(“In the documents, officials appointed by Christie seemed more concerned about the political fallout than the effects of the gridlock in the town of Fort Lee during four mornings in September,” the reporters wrote as they started.)

Still, there actually had been some sort of traffic study that week, the AP reporters judged.

The following passage appears fairly deep in this AP report.
There actually was some sort of study, an engineering professor said after reviewing the documents:
DELLI SANTI AND MULVIHILL (1/11/14): In recent weeks, questions have been raised about whether the closings were part of a legitimate study. Christie himself said Thursday: "I don't know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study."

The newly released documents show there was, in fact, a traffic study that was done, or at least a preliminary one. Two versions turned up in the documents—one was six pages and the other 16. Both were dated Sept. 12, the day before the lanes reopened.

The documents include study findings that Baroni gave to lawmakers at a hearing last year: When the lanes were closed, the main bridge traffic moved a bit faster, but local traffic had major delays.

Michael Cassidy, a University of California-Berkeley engineering professor who occasionally works with the California Department of Transportation, told The Associated Press that the preliminary study appears to be a legitimate internal report of the sort transportation officials often circulate among themselves.

"It could well be a good-faith effort, if not the finest in the annals. I cannot say this is not a study," he said. "You wouldn't want to publish it in an academic journal.”

How to deal with the fallout from the traffic jams became an issue...
It could be a good-faith study, the professor judged. For the record, that leaves the possibility that it could have been something else.

On Saturday, we saw some of the documents referenced here as we struggled through the thousands of pages which had been posted on-line in highly jumbled form. As we noted in this post, those emails and attached documents made us wonder if something resembling an actual study actually had been conducted, in real time, during the obvious craziness of the lane closings.

We can’t tell you if the AP’s judgments, or those of Cassidy, are sound:

Was this the gang that couldn’t close traffic lanes straight? We have no idea.

Was the Christie gang conducting a hoax? Were they pretending to conduct a study for any one of a number of possible reasons? We can’t judge that either.

We do know this. In hours of watching cable TV; in days of reading news reports in our leading newspapers; we have seen no reference to the documents we saw last Saturday, or to the documents the AP referenced. For whatever reason, the people who service your needs on cable TV haven’t told you about them.

You haven’t been told that David Wildstein and his crew were recording, or pretending to record, northbound traffic flow on I-95 in real time that week. You’ve seen no one comment on the documents in which they record, or seem to record, the improvement in northbound traffic which allegedly resulted from the crazy lane closings.

According to Cassidy, Wildstein and his ridiculous team produced what “appears to be a legitimate internal report of the sort transportation officials often circulate among themselves.” Is that an accurate assessment? We don’t know.

We do know this—we have seen no one asked to assess this part of Wildstein’s conduct. Indeed, we’ve seen no one even mention the fact that this conduct occurred.

Why did Wildstein shut those lanes? We can’t tell you that.

Why did this part of his conduct disappear from the press? We can hazard a guess:

Within the guild which we still call a press corps, a Standard Story quickly formed about this ridiculous conduct. At our nation’s paper of record, Kate Zernike quickly voiced an inaccurate judgment, right at the top of page one:
ZERNIKE (1/9/14): The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge—turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September—exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town's mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.
Please. Even Rachel understood that those emails and texts had “revealed” no such thing. Here’s what she said this Monday:
MADDOW (1/13/14): Something still is missing about the bridge scandal. And that is, to be frank, a lack of any proof whatsoever, any pointed suggestion even, that the Fort Lee mayor not endorsing Governor Chris Christie was, in fact, the reason the bridge lanes were shut down.


MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki is an experienced New Jersey reporter who knows a lot of the principals involved in this scandal. He’s pointing to this giant billion-dollar development in Fort Lee which is being built basically right at the spot where those Fort Lee access lanes feed on to the George Washington Bridge. Could those lanes have been shut down to mess with that development somehow?

What is not yet explained in this scandal is why it happened. With all the blanket wall-to-wall coverage we are seeing of this scandal across the country right now, not enough of the coverage points out that what is assumed to be the central reason it all happened hasn’t been proven. There’s not a shred of evidence out of those 2,000-plus pages that were released from the legislature that suggests that that was why it happened.
As far as we know, what Maddow says in those highlighted passages is perfectly accurate.

According to Maddow, “there’s not a shred of evidence out of those 2,000-plus pages” that the traffic lanes were closed to punish Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie. And yet, our hapless paper of record said that’s what the first twenty pages of the documents had “revealed!”

This is the way our “press corps” works! In the current case, here’s what happened:

As is often the case, the New York Times, and the rest of the corps, moved to adopt a Standard Group Story about the Fort Lee disaster.

As a point of professional courtesy, major errors have been permitted to pass without comment. For example, Maddow isn’t going to tell you that the Times has been clownishly wrong in its premature assessment of motive.

That said, the overall shape of the Standard Story has been clear for some time. Presumably, any suggestion that there actually was some sort of study, real or feigned, would have damaged the buzz.

Routinely, this is the way our “press corps” works when a thrilling new standard story grows. Progressive interests have been savaged by this gong-show culture over the past twenty to forty years.

Just a few examples:

This culture produced a decade of Whitewater bullroar, with pumpkins being shot in back yards. It then produced twenty months of Standard Fake Tales about Candidate Gore, tales which sent Bush to the White House.

Starting in September 2012, this same monster devoured Susan Rice. Maddow and all her MSNBC colleagues ran and hid while this occurred, just as their predecessors had done when gong-show tales savaged Clinton and Clinton, then took down Candidate Gore.

By now, even your favorite “liberal” journalists understand that this process sent Bush to the White House. They just aren’t willing to say so out loud! Nor were they willing to challenge the guild when it agreed to recite the gong-show scripts which made a liar of Rice.

Your favorite journalists are terrible people. On the brighter side, they vote the same way you do, and they enjoy extremely well-paid careers.

Their mommies and daddies are proud.

This is the culture of the guild which pretends to be our press corps. Once they’ve invented a Standard Group Tale, all contrary facts, indications or suggestions must be disappeared.

Whether the target is Christie or Rice, their greatest god, Tale, must prevail. Whatever happened in Fort Lee last fall, this is the process which has prevailed in the bulk of the “press corps” this month.

We had planned to do something different today. Once we stumbled upon that AP report, we thought you should see it instead.

Why did Wildstein and others record, or pretend to record, northbound traffic flow that week? Why did they create those reports, which may have been real and may have been Potemkin?

We’ve seen no one asked to explain! Instead, we’ve seen the children gambol and play, a brutal process we’ve been recording for the past fifteen years.

Chris Matthews [HEART] a new Irish lass. On balance, Maddow has run a clown college.

Tomorrow: As heard on Lawrence’s program last night: “We don’t know anything yet!”


  1. TDH should check his facts. Fort Lee has not been "devoured"; it's still right there by the George Washington Bridge. And do we have any evidence that the "mommies and daddies" are proud of their children in the press corps?

    No, we do not. Disgraceful.

  2. We have also not seen anyone mention, though perhaps they have
    (we just don't know and may be prepared to apologize in hindsight),
    the following tidbit from the AP story which comes right after the professor (who needs professors) commenting on what appears to be a study:

    "In a Sept. 17 email, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak appears to send Wildstein a response to be sent to a reporter writing about the lane closings. "Traffic studies or pilots are done all the time," he wrote. "They're temporary, and if they're not done, how can the effectiveness of a new approach be tested?"

    This seems to suggest a level of involvement by the Governor's office counter to Christie's assertion at his own apology press conference.

    Would this be improper? We don't know.

    When BOB was first speculating this jam may have been a bungled study, we defended his efforts. But we noted that if it was a bungled study, then the Governor's office not admitting to that fact in December was stupider than the study itself.


    What else wasn't mentioned as BOB revisited the work of Mr. Bungles?


  3. Bob's got his narrative and by golly, he's sticking to it.

    But instead of relying on AP reports from last Saturday, he should instead read the letter from the Port Authority to Sen. Jay Rockefeller before he once again poses his theory that it is "possible, that maybe, just maybe this may have been a good faith traffic study that simply went wrong.

    Note, I am not asking him to read press reports about the letter. I am asking him to read the letter himself.

    1. Perhaps the Senator is hoping to draw attention away from the chemical spill in Charleston.
      Or maybe he doesn't want the IRS to check the political donations of a company named Freedom Industries.
      Or maybe reporters like sitting on their butts waiting for stories to drop in their laps.

    2. Perhaps the Senator wrote the letter before there was a chemical spill in Charleston.

    3. Yes, perhaps it is even possible that the Senator wrote the letter seeking the Port Authority's answers on Dec. 16, back when this story was still "piddly" and not worth a full week's of Somerby's attention.

    4. BOB never called this story piddly!*

      KZ (Defender of the OTB)

      * Although it does seem, or appear, that between December 13 and December 19 of the past year BOB devoted five whole posts to this story in a week's span encompassing the period of the letter in question. Our personal favorite was the final post, entitled "Chris Christie Invented the Internet," which implies BOB entrusted Christie with the mantle of Al Gore martyrdom.for his innocent victimization in this press witch hunt.


    5. It is a "bridge too far" to even suggest that there might have been a legitimate traffic study. In addition to Rockefeller's statement on the PA response, there is the full text of the response itself - both included below. Bob needs to get off his own story-line that is frankly incredible.

      (From Newark Star-Ledger January 14, 2014) "The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has found no evidence that lane closures in Fort Lee during the second week of September were the result of a traffic study according to a statement issued by the U.S. Senator investigating the controversy today.
      "The Port Authority's response provides zero evidence that the purpose of these closures was to conduct a legitimate traffic study," Sen. John D. Rockefeller, who had asked the agency for a response to a series of questions about the incident, said in a statement today.
      Rockefeller said the answers to his inquiry show that the officials that ordered the lane diversions did not follow the agency's own procedures.
      The Port Authority's response provides zero evidence that the purpose of these closures was to conduct a legitimate traffic study. Rockerfeller called it "unconscionable" that despite warnings from the agency's professional engineers, the lane diversions were carried out anyway, Putting at risk " the safety of thousands on our interstate highway system in this way."""

  4. I don't know at this point whether there was a traffic study or not. If there was, it should be easy enough for someone to confirm. however, the fact that the Governor's aides were making light of it doesn't sound too good. Also, this is a strange way to do a traffic study, with emergency vehicles and other important vehicles tied up for a traffic study! It would seem to be a strange way to do a traffic study.
    Maybe we should discuss whether any one else around the country has performed traffic studies this way!

  5. OMB (Notes Missing While Covering Uncovered Coverage)

    Something else happened yesterday, which BOB has yet to get around to mentioning. The Port Authority which runs the busiest bridge in the world responded to questions from a U.S. Senate Committee Chairman. In releasing the response, the Chariman said this:

    “While we do not have all of the facts yet about how and why the September 9-13 lane closures happened, the Port Authority’s response to my December 16 letter provides a helpful update about what we know at this point.

    “The letter explains the careful planning and communication that should happen before interstate bridge lanes are closed for a traffic study or any other non-emergency purpose. The Port Authority officials who ordered the September 9-13 George Washington Bridge lane closures did not follow their agency’s own procedures. The Port Authority’s response provides zero evidence that the purpose of these closures was to conduct a legitimate traffic study.*

    Why would BOB not mention it? Could it be because he too has been chasing, dare we say covering his own Tail?

    Back when Senator Rockefeller was writing to the Port Authority, on December 18, 2013, BOB was writing about Rachel Maddow covering that fact:

    "In a second revelation, Rachel provided the “national” angle. Down in Washington, “the [Democratic] chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the United States Senate has now sent a letter to the agency that runs the bridge, stating his concerns about political appointees abusing their power,” an action that will almost surely lead to waves of arrests."

    We highlighted that final phrase, because, without context we shall not provide, readers might not know BOB's last remark was snark. Clown shoe snark.

    But wait! There's more from that December 18 post.

    "as she ended her program last night, Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, just kept treating us boys and girls like a big sack of squirrels, or rubes:
    Luckily, we were able to answer her question. If the traffic study line is proven to not be true, Chris Christie will say that he didn’t know.

    Presumably, his claim will be true. That’s what happens to Christie.

    We had a different question after last evening’s latest silly con. What happens to the IQ of the liberal world with this very bad, very willful person behaving like an escapee from Fox News, to which she never personally applied for a job?

    Maddow’s treatment of this story has marked a watershed for her program. She’s been playing us rubes every step of the way, turning her program into pure propaganda.

    Every minute she has burned on this bullshit could have gone to a real news topic."

    KZ (Who shares BOB's belief in clowns. Who takes BOB at his word Boxcar Willie jumped the last freight to the great beyond. Who will not coment on his conjecture or projection about the sanity of others.)

    * For curious readers, the entire PA response may be found here:

    We strongly advise reading response to Question 3 found on pp 6-8.
    We find it pretty much limits the range of options for BOB's bungled study to the hoax/cover you ass version.

    1. What the Chairman of an investigatory committee says is not testimony. It is opinion. Why should Somerby quote it? This is the difference between a primary and a secondary source.

    2. Please keep it up. I only give TDH clicks because I enjoy the comments, and skip the posts. Bob surely appreciates it, his book selling as badly as it is.

    3. Anon @ 8:52

      What in Mr. Somerby's most interesting post can you point to which is testimony? He builds his entire post around a secondary source, in which a single professor is quoted
      saying what something "could" be, and that he cannot say it is not what it "could" be.

      KZ, by the way, did not say Somerby should quote anyone. He linked the primary source from which Rockefeller formed his opinion. He suggested you read something other than Somerby.

  6. "Why did Wildstein and others record, or pretend to record, northbound traffic flow that week? Why did they create those reports, which may have been real and may have been Potemkin?

    We’ve seen no one asked to explain!"

    What the hell. I'll try again.

    Wildstein was asked, Bob. He's not talking now, without immunity.

    That is why 20 or so subpoenas were issued yesterday. Sheesh!

    1. If Bob would care to dig a bit deeper into the documents, he would discover that the recording of traffic flow and the closure of the lanes had not only nothing to do with each other, but the latter actually ruined the former which had to be done all over again.

    2. The Great and Powerful Bob would dig deeper but he did not have time. This post replaced something else he had planned. Do not look behind the curtain.

    3. "Wildstein's lawyer Alan Zegas told The Associated Press on Friday that there has not been any offer of immunity from the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is reviewing the matter. "If he has immunity from the relevant entities, he'll talk," Zegas said."

      Obviously, he wants immunity so he can explain to everyone about the "traffic study" (ha ha ha) that went awry.

    4. "Why did Wildstein and others record, or pretend to record, northbound traffic flow that week?"

      Oh, I don't know. "Is it possible" that had Wildstein told Durando and Fulton "I've been told by the governor's office to create traffic problems in Fort Lee," that might have triggered a couple of "whistleblower" calls to the Port Authority Office of Inspector General?

      We don't know.

    5. You cannot assume someone taking the 5th is guilty of anything. They are merely trying to protect their rights in the face of threatened criminal prosecution.

    6. This is quite true. But is it entirely unreasonable to think that a guy who takes the 5th AND is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony just maybe, possibly, could know exactly how hot the water he is in?

      Help me out here, because I can think of only one scenario that makes Wildstein not "guilty of anything."

      And that would be that Bridget Kelly, sitting in her office in Trenton, thought up the plan for "traffic problems in Fort Lee" all by herself and was able to communicate that plan to Wildstein in a single sentence.

  7. Mr. Howler,

    On behalf of all Republicans, I thank you for your many efforts on our behalf over the years. I have spoken with Roger, and he assures me that Bob Beckel's seat on The Five is yours the moment you are ready. Please take the spot soon. I am sure you will be an excellent Fox Liberal.

    1. Bob's blog used to refer to his frequent comedy bookings, no longer. His sense of humor must have faded, as an old person refuses to try different cuisine and tunes into Fox News to feel connected to the world.

  8. Blogger: "Librulz" put Bush in the white house with their "war on Gore".

    "Trolls" : "Maddow made sure Christie never gets his hands on the nuclear suitcase"

    1. Sock puppets: Trollery is tyranny. Thank you for the helpful analysis and please ban trolls.

  9. OMB (Counting Blog Comments So BOB Won't Have To)

    The first time BOB posted the theory that a bungled traffic study was a worthy consideration, 233 comments were made.

    The second time, here, it might climb over 20. Just not yet.

    Perhaps BOB has not figured out that the reason why the press has not followed this fairly flismy rabbit trail is because the Governor asserted in December that his people had no involvement.

    What made the story a national one is the effort of a local New Jersey paper and the Assembly investigation proving Governor Christie was not telling the truth in December about his office having no role.
    They had a role. And they said ugly embarrassing things while playing that role.

    It wasn't Rachel Maddow. It was not the New York Times. BOB has had some accurate criticism to level about their conduct along the way.
    But BOB has forgotten in this whole sordid affair, the lessons he tried to impart on his readers. Up until this blew up, Christie was the one who was the media favorite. He was the new Republican straight talker who forged bipartisan consensus and won big electoral victories.
    There was a narrative alright. There was a script. There was a tale.
    Christie was its star. Unfortunately, due to the bully boy tactics of his underlings and perhaps himself, regardless of motive, they created a mess then tried to cover up their roles. And foolishly, they left tracks.

    Rachel Maddow didn't uncover them. And BOB's focus on her, her MSNBC colleagues, and the NYTimes is neither enlightening nor likely to change anything.

    "When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes, people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn't have one. I didn't care. I finished the drink and went to bed."

    Raymond Chandler "The Long Goodbye"

    Bye BOB.


    1. Does this mean you are leaving? We live in hope.

    2. I may continue to read. I might even weigh in using your courageous screen name to applaud you for another meaningless thought sharing exercise. You are the best.

  10. "What made the story a national one is the effort of a local New Jersey paper and the Assembly investigation proving Governor Christie was not telling the truth in December about his office having no role."

    In the spirit of the 100 percent accuracy demanded of others by this blog, it should be noted that while the "local" ("regional" would be a better description) Bergen County Record was indeed the first to report on the Fort Lee traffic jams in its Sept 13 and 14 "Road Warrior" traffic column, the real heavy lifting was done by the Wall Street Journal.

    The Record does not pick up the story again until Oct. 2, AFTER the WSJ had broken the news that Wildstein was the guy who ordered the lanes closed, AND that Foye had written his incendiary e-mail.

    As for why this story exploded nationally, well, Christie can blame himself and his bombastic Dec. 2 presser for that. He sure raised a hell of a lot more questions than he answered and before that week was out, more gas was poured on the fire with the resignations of Baroni and Wildstein, his two top Port Authority staff appointees.

  11. I am really inspired with your writing skills and also with the structure for your weblog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it your self? Traffic School in California We have become so addicted to cell phone that we pick up mobile the second we heard our message tone ringing and all this happens unconsciously. Majority of the people keep on texting while driving thinking that it will take just a few seconds.

    1. And I bet that by now, Bob appreciates even advertising spam.

    2. It is on topic. Better written than majority of people texting and many TDH commenters.

    3. And not only does Bob appreciate the advertising spam, so does his loyal followers. Both of them.

    4. Its cingular, moran: "so due" his followers. Not "duz."