In August 2011, in this space, we wrote: “There’s some question as to how surprised the governor should have looked earlier this month when the Port Authority announced its decision to seek toll increases higher than the 1,776-foot-tall — and $11 billion deep — Freedom Tower, which is heavily over budget.”
The point of that editorial was that Chris Christie never should have been surprised about the proposed toll increase out of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey because the agency was fully committed to staying in the real estate business, and could only do so by taxing commuters coming into New York. So, as we pointed out, it was a tax on New Jersey commuters to build an office tower only benefiting New York.
If the accusations printed in The Star-Ledger last week — a wild tale that puts both Christie and Andrew Cuomo in cahoots with the agency in a plan to send tolls and PATH fares skyrocketing — are true, there’s no more room for surprise, only cynical curiosity over what new scandal will emerge from the embattled agency before Christie’s reputation fully collapses like an overtaxed bridge. The Port Authority has been a source of more revelations than the Bible, many of them about the character of our governor and those in his inner circle. At this point, the Four Horsemen would seem a welcome relief to the end of this madness.
Despite all the promises of top-to-bottom reviews, staffing cuts and an end to the patronage pit mentality, this agency remains the Pork Authority. It suffers almost no oversight. Employment is extended as a reward for friendship. Salaries, ditto. It awards contracts into the billions for projects that go far above its original mission of moving commuters into and out of New York, the One World Trade Center project above being a prime example. Meanwhile, bridges are indifferently maintained. Dilly-dallying over the raising of the Bayonne Bridge could have a real jobs impact. The major airports continue to rank among the nation’s worst in timely arrivals and departures.
An audit isn’t going to cut it. This calls for an amputation. Clear out the agency’s top brass, scale back its mission, its money, its size and its tolls, and maybe we’ll get some sensibility at the crossings. Until then, we’ll just be waiting for the latest scandal.