The Record: Opinion - Where is Port Authority accountability?

By Valerie Vainieri Huttle, The Record

IN RECENT WEEKS, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been at the center of controversy and concern yet again in what appears to be an increasingly disconcerting pattern for the troubled bi-state agency. Bergen County residents and other New Jersey commuters were stuck in immobilizing traffic at the entrance of the George Washington Bridge back in September and we still don’t know why. Whether it was because of an impromptu traffic study or some other reason –nefarious or well-intentioned –the answer still remains unknown.

The allegations of wrongdoing are disturbing, but they are not surprising. The Port Authority has been out of control for decades. It is widely believed to be a political patronage mill that operates in the shadows, devoid of accountability or meaningful oversight. I hope we learn why those lanes in Fort Lee were closed this fall, but the calls for transparency must not end there.

While the investigation continues, we must focus on the root of the problem —how the lack of transparency at the Port Authority is affecting commuters and residents.

Another toll hike

At the beginning of this month, tolls were again raised. And just last week, commuters experienced five- and six-hour delays due to emergency repairs. Even non-emergency construction causes massive delays and inconveniences on an almost daily basis.

The Port Authority consistently appears to be doing less with more, which raises the question: Where is the money going? We have less confidence than ever in an agency that is responsible for the safety of millions of people in the New Jersey and New York region.

When the new legislative session begins in January, I will reintroduce the Port Authority Transparency and Accountability Act. This bi-state, bipartisan legislation was passed by both houses of the Legislature last year, but promptly vetoed by Governor Christie. It would have required independent auditing of the Port Authority, the creation of audit, finance and governance committees, financial disclosures and training for commissioners, and provisions to give the public a better opportunity to participate in the toll-hike process.

Transparency

In the governor’s veto message, he claimed that he would continue to work to “ensure that appropriate action is taken to ensure that the Port Authority functions in a transparent and efficient manner that best serves the citizens of New Jersey.”

North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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