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New Jersey traffic scandal: Dispatch tapes released

February 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Fort Lee, New Jersey, released hours of dispatch tapes on Friday of a week in September when traffic jams were allegedly engineered as political payback in the state.

Traffic jams in Fort Lee and on the George Washington Bridge into New York City were created when traffic lanes were reduced for a purported traffic study.

At least four people have lost their jobs because of the traffic jams, which were believed to be aimed at Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie for re-election.

The incident has caused headaches for the administration of N.J. Governor Chris Christie.

An Associated Press review of dispatch tapes and call logs and interviews from neighboring towns shows the traffic jams appeared not to lead to anyone's death or seriously compromise their medical care. The 911 records, obtained over several weeks through public records requests, included reports of chest pains, traffic collisions, false fire alarms and a dead goose in a parking lot.

The traffic jams occurred from Sept. 9-13. Dozens of people have been subpoenaed in an investigation, including people from Christie's inner circle, his re-election commission, and the state Republican party.

Christie has apologized for the lane closures and said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by a former aide who called for the shutdown. The governor also has said he was not involved and had no knowledge of the lane closures beforehand.

The U.S. attorney for New Jersey and state lawmakers are investigating.

Town officials have said the traffic jams caused unnecessary delays for first responders. Officials said response times were doubled or quadrupled because of the traffic. A 91-year-old woman died at her Fort Lee home while the gridlock was at its height, but family members have said they don't believe the traffic was a factor in her death.

Similar calls were received in Fort Lee, including one for a 4-year-old who disappeared from his school. The child was later found safe.

In each town, dispatchers and first responders voiced frustration and exasperation as streets that normally carry heavy amounts of traffic during the morning rush hour turned into virtual parking lots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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