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Issues On George Washington Bridge During Snowstorm Could Have Given Terrorists A New Playbook

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- People have been buzzing that Thursday's snowstorm has put the spotlight on how one traffic bottleneck could give terrorists ideas on how to paralyze New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration blamed pileups on the George Washington Bridge for the endless hours of gridlock.

CBS2's Lisa Rozner asked the authorities if the GWB is now security concern.

Brake lights lit up the West Side Highway and other major New York City roads for hours on end Thursday. Ask the mayor why.

"Twenty-car pileup. George Washington Bridge entirely knocking out the ability of a huge number of commuters to leave New York City," de Blasio said.

George Washington Bridge
An aerial of the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 8, 2016. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The GWB is one of the most utilized bridges in the country, with 14 lanes of traffic carrying not only commuters to and from New York, but also truck traffic up and down the East Coast.

It's an American icon, and if agencies were delayed in moving vehicles due to snow and accidents there could be real problems if something more severe were to happen.

"To a terrorist, this shows an acute vulnerability. That despite everything that we have been through as a community there are still these rather hard-to-forgive occurrences to show our resources aren't working together well enough," said Robert McCrie, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

CBS2's Rozner talked to NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill on Monday.

When asked if last week's storm created a moment of pause, O'Neill said, "It didn't create heightened concern for us. It was a very difficult day for everybody in the city and I think we have to improve our plans to make sure that we can cover all contingencies."

O'Neill did acknowledge that what happens on the bridge impacts people all over the area.

"There are so many vehicles that move over the bridge, if there is an issue it'll back up into city. It will back up into Jersey, too, so that's something we have to consider," the commissioner said.

MOREOfficials: GWB Overhaul To Be Completed In 2025

So CBS2 wanted to ask Port Authority if the GWB is now a terror target, but the agency would not make its executive director or police superintendent available for an on-camera interview. It would only say in a statement that the bridge is on high alert 24/7, 365 days a year.

The response from the traveling public?

"How we going to get out?" Upper East Side resident J.J. Johnson asked.

"Usually when something happens there we better beef it up there, so maybe we should worry more about Port Authority now," UES resident Jackie Meyer added.

"It's so typical. We live in a third world country as far as I'm concerned and this city is not managed at all and I'm very disappointed in the leadership," UES resident Suzanne Berman said.

Whether or not shutting down the bridge actually causes extreme gridlock -- does the fact that officials pointed to it now make it a target? Law enforcement agencies will now have to chew on that.

CBS2 also reached out to the New York and New Jersey governors' offices, which control the Port Authority. We're still waiting to hear back.

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