This is the heart of the mystery.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 9, after the Port Authority cut access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge from three to one, traffic backed up across the borough’s narrow streets. School buses were late delivering students to schools, commuters missed meetings and police, fire and ambulance calls were delayed.
As motorists slowly rolled toward the bridge’s tollbooths, many rolled down their windows and asked police what was causing so much congestion.
A pattern soon emerged.
In numerous cases, say drivers, Fort Lee officials and others familiar with the situation, aggravated motorists were told by Port Authority police officers at the scene that they should call the mayor or borough officials.
One motorist said that an officer did not wait to be asked what was causing the traffic problems. The cop motioned the motorist to roll down his window and told him to call Mayor Sokolich.
Just how many motorists received those instructions may never be determined. But Fort Lee officials say they have a rough idea of the number of people who acted on the advice.
Dozens of motorists telephoned either the borough’s municipal offices or the Fort Lee Police Department, borough officials say. What was significant and suspicious, they say, was the similarity of the message. Many repeated the same line — that they were told by Port Authority officers to complain to either the mayor of Fort Lee or other borough officials.
Sokolich cited the callers — and their call-the-mayor messages — when he wrote to Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni on Sept. 12, complaining that the lane closures “wreaked havoc upon our community” and seemed to have “punitive overtones.”
“What other conclusion could we possibly reach?” wrote Sokolich
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