After an extensive analysis, the Associated Press reports that the lane closures ordered by a member of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) office caused "total gridlock" but did not appear to lead to any deaths or prevent anyone from receiving urgent medical care.
Reports at the time indicated that emergency responders were significantly delayed in several cases and, in one case, a 91-year-old woman waiting for care died.
The family of the woman who died did not blame the lane closures, and the AP agrees:
The AP’s review sought to identify any emergency situations within a roughly 5-mile radius of the bridge closings where a person’s life or urgent medical care appeared to have been directly endangered by stalled response times attributable to the traffic jams — and whoever was responsible for them. The review doesn’t suggest who was ultimately responsible for ordering the two lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge.
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. Officials in Fort Lee, N.J., the epicenter of the serious traffic problems, have yet to release audio from radio traffic among emergency workers during the week of the lane closures, but the AP’s review included the dispatch logs of 911 calls that would have been affected.
Christie has since apologized several times for the lane closures and said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by a former aide who called for the shutdown. Still, the Justice Department and New Jersey’s Legislature continue to investigate whether the gridlock was political retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, by the Christie administration. The mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election.
It could have been worse. The 911 calls and dispatch logs show that police and emergency medical workers warned of “total gridlock” and pleaded for patience responding to 911 calls around Fort Lee, where streets became a virtual parking lot last September after traffic was unexpectedly backed up leading into New York City.
Needless to say, if the report had found the opposite -- that the delayed response times contributed to the death of the 91-year-old woman -- the problems for the Christie administration and Christie himself would have been much more severe.