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Manhattan DA Said to Probe Port Authority Skyway Funding

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April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is investigating whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey improperly financed the $1 billion renovation of the Pulaski Skyway, a person familiar with the matter said.

Vance’s prosecutors have conducted interviews about the agency’s funding of reconstruction of the 82-year-old roadway in New Jersey that connects Newark and Kearny to Jersey City, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and asked not to be identified. The bridge’s northbound lanes are set to be closed today as part of a two-year renovation that is expected to slow traffic in the region.

New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie directed the Port Authority to spend $1.8 billion on the Pulaski Skyway and other road improvements. He made the move in 2010 after killing a planned $8.7 billion commuter-train tunnel under the Hudson River that would have been funded with $3 billion of Port Authority money.

The Vance investigation comes amid probes by New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and the state legislature into the politically motivated creation of traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge last September.

Lane Closures

They are examining which of Christie’s aides and allies at the Port Authority ordered closings of the bridge’s access lanes. Christie, a Republican weighing a White House run in 2016, has seen his popularity slide amid the scandal.

An internal investigation commissioned by Christie concluded he had nothing to do with the traffic tie-ups, blaming them on Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, once a top Port Authority official.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter it didn’t identify, reported earlier that Vance subpoenaed Port Authority records. Those records included correspondence among agency officials and the Christie administration on topics including rebuilding the World Trade Center site, projects in New Jersey and the PATH transportation hub in lower Manhattan, the newspaper said.

Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Vance, declined to comment yesterday on the probe. Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman, also declined to comment on it.

A state judge on April 9 quashed subpoenas issued by lawmakers for records from Kelly and Bill Stepien, a former Christie campaign manager. The judge ruled that the act of turning over the records would violate the constitutional rights of Kelly and Stepien against self-incrimination.

State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chairman of a legislative panel investigating the lane closings, said the committee is looking at its next move after the judge’s ruling. The panel can appeal the decision, rewrite the subpoenas or grant immunity to Kelly and Stepien.

Wisniewski also said the panel may call witnesses to testify as soon as next month.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in Newark at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Peter Blumberg