Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Christie Administration Now Probed on Port Authority Funding of Pulaski Skyway Rehab

Media outlets continue reporting that Gov. Chris Christie and his administration is being investigated for how the Port Authority funded the Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project.

New Jersey got the Port Authority to shift funds originally meant for the ARC tunnel to go to rebuild the Pulaski Skyway. That happened when Gov. Christie cancelled the ARC project in 2010, and it's a decision I agreed with because NJ Transit could never keep to a capital budget and New York was not contributing to a project that would benefit immensely from the added tunnels, as well as the fact that the project design was flawed with no through-running trains to Sunnyside Yards for maximizing train access into Manhattan during the morning rush hour and additional trains for the PM rush back to New Jersey.

The Pulaski Skyway was one of the first superhighways designed and opened in 1932. It connected Newark to Jersey City across the Hackensack River and Meadowlands, along with providing direct access to the Holland Tunnel. The bridge was determined to need massive rehabilitation, particularly after the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota a few years back.

The rehabilitation project is indeed a worthy and needed project, but New Jersey didn’t want to raise its own taxes or fees to cover it. That would have put Gov. Christie in a tough position had he wanted to run for President. So, it appears that Gov. Christie and his appointees at the Port Authority got the Port Authority to issue a ruling that the Skyway was an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which would be a valid use of Port Authority funds. But the reality is that it’s a stretch to call it a Lincoln Tunnel access road since it directly leads to the Holland.

This has consequences for the bond offerings by the Port Authority since it would be a material misrepresentation of what the bond offerings were for.

Now, a complicating factor is that the Port Authority doesn’t answer to Christie alone. It’s a bistate agency and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would ordinarily need to sign off on the deal through his representatives on the Board.

Bridgegate showed how the system inside the Port Authority has completely broken down and how New York's appointees on the authority were outside the loop for the GWB lane closures. Is it possible they’re outside the loop on the Skyway funding deal?

I consider that possible but highly implausible because all the major news outlets reported on how Port Authority funds were going to be reallocated to do the Pulaski project. That would seemingly implicate Cuomo as well. These issues should have been raised back then and there were questions about how the money was reallocated, though no one appeared to have raised the question about whether the reallocation was legal from a securities offering perspective.

How wouldn’t it implicate Cuomo? If the New Jersey cronies were the ones who ginned up the legal authority to shift the funds, ignoring other counsel, then the prosecutors might be able to isolate the culpability for the deal to Christie and his allies inside the Port Authority.

Frankly, the way Gov. Cuomo has screwed with regional transit and played games with MTA funding, I wouldn't be shocked if both were involved in these actions and that there was a quid pro quo for the Port Authority to spend a similar amount of funds on New York based projects.

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