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Christie Administration Criticized For Handling Of Pulaski Skyway Reconstruction

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The northbound lanes of the Pulaski Skyway will soon be shut down for expensive renovations, but you might be surprised at who is paying for that work.

It will cost $1 billion to fix up the crumbling Pulaski Skyway and the Port Authority will foot the bill, thanks to a deal New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie made with the agency three years ago after he killed the ARC tunnel project.

The money from that now goes to the Skyway reconstruction, CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported.

Commuters who have faced three toll hikes told Sloan they are angry.

"Wow, I am surprised, surprised," one commuter said.

In a statement, a Christie spokesperson said the deal was finalized "with the full legal review and approval of both the New Jersey attorney general and Port Authority counsel."

The Bergen Record has reported that confidential documents show a high-ranking Port Authority attorney had reservations.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who headed the transportation committee then, said Christie wanted to look good nationally by not raising the gas tax that pays for the transportation trust fund, which takes care of state road costs.

"So he raided the Port Authority by canceling the ARC tunnel," Wisniewski said.

Christie has denied that, saying he wanted to make sure money intended for New Jersey stayed in the state.

Wisniewski, who also co-chairs the committee investigating the "bridge-gate" scandal, has issued a subpoena to the Port Authority, trying to get information on the toll hikes.

"We were not able to get all of those documents. The attorney handling the document production for the Port Authority was a man named Randy Mastro, and Randy Mastro said that we had received all the non-privileged materials we were going to get," Wisniewski said.

Apparently, a 1931 law allows the Port Authority to fund projects related to the Lincoln Tunnel, but not the Holland Tunnel, Sloan reported.

When asked if thinks the Pulaski Skyway decision is legal, Wisniewski told Sloan, "I don't believe it's legal."

AAA New York has questions, too. The agency is suing the Port Authority over its investment in the World Trade Center.

"We are trying to understand what the state of mind was with the commissioners when they approved the toll hikes -- what did they think that the toll money would be used for," AAA's Robert Sinclair Jr. said.

But so far, the Port Authority has not faced a legal challenge for funding the Pulaski Skyway project.

The Port Authority has defended its move, claiming access roads to the Lincoln Tunnel are covered and that many drivers that use the Skyway head to both the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.

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