Plans to Depoliticize Port Authority Stall as Christie Names Top Ally to Leadership Role
by Josh Anderson
TRENTON, NJ — The leadership of Port Authority is set to see some controversial changes. The agency, which oversees both New York and New Jersey’s bridges, tunnels, ports, and airports, will see one of Governor Chris Christie’s staunchest allies take a top-ranking Port Authority post. Former New Jersey State Senator (and recent Christie-appointee to the agency’s board) Kevin O’Toole is expected to replace Mr. Degnan, while aid to Governor Cuomo Rick Cotton is likely to take over for Mr. Foye. These speculations come after a long period of uncertainty in the leadership of PATH, revealing that plans to depoliticize the bi-state agency in the wake of the infamous “Bridgegate” have stalled.
New Jersey and New York residents alike (along with citizens across the United States) remember that saga well, in which two PATH appointees from New Jersey (Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director, and his Lieutenant, David Wildstein) shut down access to the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan to punish the mayor of nearby Ft. Lee for declining to endorse Governor Chris Christie’s bid for re-election that year. The ensuing three-day traffic jam is the stuff of legend still to this day. The criminal trial following traffic jams exposed Christie’s supporters’ and allies’ attempts to court political goodwill through Port Authority. Though Governor Christie was never charged and still serves as head of state, Wildstein pled guilty to two felony charges (sentenced to probation) while Baroni is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for his part in the debacle. Throughout the investigation, O’Toole staunchly defended the Governor, and accused Democrats of politicizing the event.
To address these controversies and salvage the reputation of the agency, Governors Cuomo and Christie joined forces in 2015 to depoliticize Port Authority, including plans to combine Baroni’s and Foye’s positions with an apolitical Chief Executive. However, the search for a candidate stalled in June 2017 due to an inability to find a candidate that both governors could agree on. The proposed restructuring was meant to alternate the power to appoint the future chairmen of the agency between the states every two years, and now the two new appointees are expected to head the up search.
“I can think of no one better than Kevin O’Toole to assume the Port Authority chairmanship at this point,” said Governor Christie. “Kevin is the right person at the right time.”