Fort Lee Traffic Jam Brings Mayor to Washington Gridlock

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, whose town is at the center of a traffic-jam controversy hounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is attending President Barack Obama’s speech tonight as a guest of a Democratic congressman.

“It’s always been on my bucket list and I’m really looking forward to it,” Sokolich said about the State of the Union in an interview today while touring the U.S. Capitol.

Sokolich is a guest of U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat whose district includes Fort Lee. Lane closings ordered by allies of Christie, a Republican, from Sept. 9 to 12, brought traffic to a standstill in the town of 37,500, which abuts the George Washington Bridge. The mayor, also a Democrat, had questioned whether the tie-ups were payback for his failure to support Christie’s re-election.

Christie, 51, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was sworn in for a second term this month. He has said he knew nothing about orders issued for the traffic jams. The scandal, the subject of state and federal probes, threatens his national political ambitions.

The controversy also is weighing on voter support. Christie’s approval rating slid to 48 percent, from 62 percent in October, according to a survey released today by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind institute. The last time his approval was below 50 percent was in May 2011.

Obama, a Democrat, will focus his fifth State of the Union, scheduled for 9 p.m. Washington time, on how he can avoid political gridlock in Congress. U.S. lawmakers compiled one of their least productive legislative records last year.

Washington is among the nation’s 10 worst cities for traffic, according to a scorecard released last year by Inrix Inc., a traffic-data company. Lee said congested roads don’t bother him.

“We from Fort Lee are combat-ready for anything any city can throw at us,” Sokolich said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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