George Washington Bridge Jams Easy, Next to Washington’s Gridlock

Photograph by Richard Drew/AP Photo

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich at a news conference in Fort Lee, N.J., on Jan. 9, 2014.

Out of the traffic jam and into the log jam.

Mark Sokolich, mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., is best known lately as the unwitting victim of mysterious lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last fall that snarled his town in traffic gridlock for days.

Tonight, Sokolich will have a seat in the House chambers as his party’s president delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“It’s always been on my bucket list and I’m really looking forward to it,” Sokolich said today as he toured the Capitol.

The mayor will attend as a guest of Rep. Bill Pacrell, another New Jersey Democrat whose district includes the now-famous Fort Lee.

Those lane closures in September were caused by Port Authority officials responding to orders from the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that it was time for some traffic trouble in Fort Lee. Christie, a Republican who until now has been widely touted as one of his party’s best prospects for president in 2016, has denied any knowledge of the apparently politically motivated traffic jam and fired the deputy chief of staff who ordered up the trouble.

The four-day gridlock in Fort Lee may have upset a lot of commuters and townspeople alike, yet it pales in comparison with the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government forced by a fight over the president’s health care law in October, a shutdown that cost the U.S. economy billions.

For that matter, the traffic in Washington is worse on any given day of the week. Washington is among the nation’s 10 worst cities for traffic, according to a scorecard that Intrix Inc., a traffic-data firm, released last year.

The mayor says he isn’t worried:

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

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