The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who put a stop to politically motivated lane closures last fall said Thursday said he is proud of his actions and didn't hesitate in taking them.
"I didn't want someone dying in the back of an ambulance," Patrick Foye said during a question-and-answer session hosted by the New York Observer and the law firm Cozen O'Connor. "I'm proud of the action I took. It was, frankly, a very easy, short decision."
The September lane closures near the George Washington Bridge caused massive traffic backups in Fort Lee and eventually engulfed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration in scandal after it was revealed his allies ordered the closures, apparently for political retribution. The U.S. attorney's office and a New Jersey legislative committee are investigating.
In a September email released as part of the legislative investigation, Foye angrily denounced the lane closures — which he said he wasn't told about beforehand — and called them "ill-advised" and "abusive" and questioned whether they violated federal law. Two Port Authority officials resigned — David Wildstein, who orchestrated the closures in the guise of a traffic study, and Bill Baroni, Foye's deputy and a Christie appointee.
In December, Foye testified about the lane closures before a New Jersey legislative committee and was scheduled to testify again this week but had his appearance postponed at the request of the U.S. attorney's office. Asked if he had been called by the U.S. attorney to appear before a grand jury, Foye declined comment Thursday.
Tom Kean Jr., New Jersey's Republican leader in the state Senate, took the opportunity to call for the committee to turn its focus away from investigating the lane closings.
"The U.S. attorney's notice should serve as a conclusion to this legislative committee's costly, excessively partisan 'inquiry,'" he said. "At last, it is time for the select committee to accomplish something for the public good and turn its full attention to passing bipartisan legislation to reform this long-troubled Port Authority."
Foye told Thursday's audience that the scrutiny focused on the authority in the wake of the lane closings and other controversies in recent years is not unwelcome.
"I think the Port Authority, from a transparency/media point of view, has crossed the Rubicon as the result of recent controversies and it's not going to be possible to re-cross it," he said. "The intense media focus, while it may abate to some extent, is likely to continue for a long period of time, and that's a good thing."