Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Christie Gets to Whiz Thru the Lincoln Tunnel. And He Wants You to Know It.
Friday, March 01, 2013 - 02:31 PM
Governor Christie gets to speed through traffic, and he wants you to know. Earlier this week, Christie's press office sent out a clip of the Governor, joking with second graders. Kind of the warm and accessible and funny image Christie's team likes to project.
Speaking Wednesday at a meeting in Montville, an 8-year old named Audrey asked the Governor what his favorite thing to do is. There's a "fun" answer to that, Christie said, and it's "going to New York City." (There's a serious answer to, having to do with making people's lives better. But back to our story.)
How do you get to NYC? the Governor asked Audrey.
The reply: "Usually I drive to the train station and then we use the train to get to the city." But not Christie. "Some people," he said, "in fact a lot of people -- don't take the train. When you're governor, they close the Lincoln Tunnel for you. And you get to drive right through! No traffic! It's the best!"
Wait a minute. The Lincoln Tunnel gets closed when the governor drives through it?
We at TN wondered about that practice, so we asked around.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the tunnel, would not answer questions about whether this is common practice for the governor -- or anyone else. Neither would they say how often they close the tunnels for this reason. "For the record," said a spokesman, "the Port Authority does not comment on security issues."
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Christie, said his office wouldn’t discuss security protocols that are determined by the Port Authority and the governor's executive protection unit.
But two sources familiar with the Port Authority cast doubt on that. "It would take an hour, at least, to close the tunnel," said one source. "They probably just create some room for him to whisk through. "I’ve never heard of the Port Authority closing the Lincoln Tunnel for a governor before,” said another source.
This was echoed by Veronica Vanterpool, the head of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “I’ve never heard of the Lincoln Tunnel being closed for a governor," she said. "In fact, I can’t remember it being closed for anything other than a calamity.”
Vanterpool's group, and others, are still steaming about Christie's decision a few years back to halt construction of the ARC transit tunnel under the Hudson River. That would have mean, planners have said, less traffic for everyone in the Lincoln Tunnel.
Christie: Here's my favorite thing about being governor, on the fun side. Going to New York City. Let me tell you. Have you ever gone to New York City?
Governor: Okay. How did you get there?
Audrey: Usually I drive to the train station and then we use the train to get to the city.
Governor: Okay. Some people -- in fact a lot of people -- don't take the train. And a lot of people drive. And maybe when you're on the train and you see the people in all the traffic, trying to get to the Lincoln Tunnel? When you're governor, they close the Lincoln Tunnel for you. And you get to drive right through! No traffic! It's the best! I love going to New York now! I used to hate it because I'd sit in the traffic! Now, no traffic! I love it! That's the most fun thing, on the fun side, about being governor, is going to New York City. In fact, Mary Pat, who -- you know there's lots of things about this job that she doesn't like -- we were going into New York about three weeks ago, and they stopped the traffic. And you go all these odd ways and you go the wrong way on a one-way, it's just great. And all of a sudden there it is, there's the tube and it's completely open and you're flying through. She looked at me and she goes "this never gets old." It might be the major reason she wants me to get re-elected. I'm not sure.