MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. — A new road bearing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s name is expected to ease traffic volume in a residential area, a bit of irony that was inescapable during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.
It was a series of epic traffic jams in 2013 in a town near the George Washington Bridge, orchestrated for political payback by one of his staffers and two supporters, that contributed to Christie’s plummeting approval numbers and unsuccessful presidential bid last year, though the Republican wasn’t charged in the scandal.
Christie was on hand for Monday’s christening and joked, “This is an indication that you’re starting to get old, when they start naming things after you.”
The access road, expected to be completed next summer, will connect a busy road to sprawling Central Park of Morris County. Nearby residents had complained for years as more and more visitors drove through their neighborhood to reach the park.
Morris County, about 25 miles west of New York City, is a reliable Republican stronghold in a state that runs deep blue. In the recent gubernatorial election to succeed Christie, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno received 54 percent of the vote in Morris County but 42 percent overall.
Christie has lived in the county for about 25 years, and began his political career there as a county freeholder in the 1990s before running unsuccessfully for state office. He became U.S. attorney in 2002, and defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.
“When I started here as a freeholder in 1994, the idea I’d have a road named after me wasn’t in the front of my mind,” Christie said. “It’s something I never thought would happen, but then again I never thought I would be governor, either.”
Christie easily won re-election in 2013 and was viewed as a top 2016 presidential contender. But his approval rating dropped in the wake of the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal involving lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and his top appointee to the authority that operates the bridge were convicted last year, and a former high school classmate whom Christie approved for a job there pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme to retaliate against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie.
Christie leaves office in January, when Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy takes over.
“Fifty-seven days, not that I’m counting,” he joked Monday. He repeated his recent statements that his immediate plans are to see Bruce Springsteen’s show on Broadway the day after he leaves office. He said he would share details on his future plans by late January or early February.
This story has been corrected to show the street is Governor Chris Christie Drive, not Governor Chris Christie Way.