Another day, another bridge probe for Gov. Chris Christie's administration. The New York Times reported Tuesday that officials are investigating whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey violated securities laws and deceived bond holders by mischaracterizing a project to repair the Pulaski Skyway.
While investigating first Bridgegate, over whether Christie's administration caused lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to punish the Fort Lee mayor, federal officials zeroed in on the the Pulaski Skyway. The Skyway is a crumbling bridge owned and operated by the state (not Port Authority) that connects the cities of Newark and Jersey City. The state didn't have the funding to pay for the repairs. In 2010, Christie's office pushed to use $1.8 million from a cancelled rail tunnel to fund repairs of the bridge, but when the Port Authority said the bridge didn't fall into their jurisdiction, state transportation officials and Gov. Christie himself said they planned on funding the repairs anyway.
The Port Authority then justified the project by categorizing the Skyway as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel (which they do have authority over) even though the two are nine miles away on opposite sides of Jersey City. That's the possibly illegal part: in bond documents, the Port Authority calls the Skyway repairs the “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements.” Under New York's Martin Act it's a felony to deceive bondholders, even if there was no fraud involved. In addition to the criminal charges by the Manhattan district attorney's office, the SEC will investigate for possible securities law violations.
As New Jersey's The Record reported in March, this wouldn't be the first time the Port Authority has funded something outside of its usual jurisdiction, including "industrial parks, a garbage incinerator and office buildings, including the World Trade Center." But in prior incidences, the New York and New Jersey legislatures approved the projects.