As the Bridgegate scandal torments New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and threatens to distract New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both men are ordering the bi-state agency to undergo a self-examination and issue a report within the next 60 days.
Noting there have been "recent disruptions" with the Port Authority, the letter underplays by just a tad the bad press that has surrounded the agency since a fictional traffic study was cited as a reason to engage in some New Jersey political playback and shut down a traffic lane on the George Washington Bridge.
For years, government watchdogs have said that no one is really watching the Port Authority, a massive agency with an $8.2 billion budget that has strayed far from its original mission to create interstate transportation projects and settle disputes about shipping in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Beyond the Bridgegate scandal, serious questions are being raised about whether the agency should help bail out real estate mogul Larry Silverstein who is seeing the construction of one of his office towers stall at Ground Zero.
It's tricky enough to have accountability at large public authorities like the MTA but try spreading that accountability over two states and then it sometimes feels like no one is in charge. The Port Authority's governance is also designed Tammany style with thousands of political appointments filling its hallways while the New Jersey governor picks its chairman and the New York governor taps its executive director.
It's unclear whether the agency can actually come up with the right kind of medicine to heal itself but a report – any kind of report – is a smart first step. While voters may have been cheerfully oblivious of the Port Authority's problems for decades, Bridgegate may have changed all that. Who ever would have imagined that a traffic jam could turn out to be a good thing?