Goethals Bridge dragged into GWB investigation

The GWB lane closures have led to an investigation of the Port Authority’s chairman and potential conflicts of interest pertaining to the Goethals Bridge project.

The investigation into lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September has now extended to the Goethals Bridge with the subpoena federal prosecutors issued to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seeking records related to David Samson, the agency’s chairman, and a possible conflict of interest regarding his law firm and the $1.5 billion project.

In addition to the Goethals Bridge, the subpoena is also seeking records concerning the Bayonne Bridge project, according to the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets, which have cited people familiar with the matter.

The US Attorney’s Office of New Jersey that reportedly issued the subpoena would neither confirm nor deny that it had done so.

The Goethals Bridge project, which has been described as ‘historic’, involves demolishing the 86-year old bridge that connects New York and New Jersey. It is being delivered through a public-private partnership (PPP; P3), which the Port Authority awarded in April 2013 to NYNJ Link Partnership, a consortium teaming Macquarie Group and Kiewit.

“The project is not in jeopardy and it is moving forward as planned,” a source told Infrastructure Investor on Friday, adding that “a lot of the information out there is misleading”.

Financing for the project is being provided through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) and a $457 million bond offering.

Investigators have turned their attention to Samson after it appeared that the lane closures that caused five days of traffic chaos in Fort Lee, New Jersey were politically motivated and linked to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s associates and allies.

Samson, who is also a partner of law firm Wolff & Samson, was appointed as chairman of the Port Authority by Christie.

In that role, he had decision-making power in deciding who would be awarded the two high-profile projects. According to the New York Times, the construction companies involved in the projects had ties to his law firm.

In addition to Goethals Bridge, the agency is also overseeing the procurement process for the upgrade/redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, one of New York’s three major airports.

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey receives no tax revenue from either the State of New York or New Jersey or from the City of New York. The agency raises the necessary funds for the improvement, construction or acquisition of its facilities primarily on its own credit.

In addition to LaGuardia, the Port Authority’s portfolio of airports includes John F. Kennedy International Airport and Stewart International Airport in New York; and Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

It also builds, operates and maintains ground, rail, and seaport facilities and owns and manages the 16-acre World Trade Center site, where construction crews are building One World Trade Center.