In a small room at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey sits hundreds if not thousands of pages of documents that may shed light on how access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee came to be closed in September.
The 12 members of the Legislative Select Committee on Investigations began the work of examining the documents Thursday as they look for answers in the traffic scandal that has rocked Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
"There are hundreds of pages. After the first hour and a half I stopped counting," said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, one of four Republicans who sit on the committee. Handlin was one of the first committee members to read through the material submitted by four people before the Feb. 3 deadline.
The work of looking for answers to key questions -- who knew what when -- is expected to take some time. "This was document dump No. 1 and there are many more on their way," Handlin said after spending several hours inside the secure room. "A number of the people subpoenaed need more time. Some of them will be submitting material to us on a rolling basis."
At least one employee from the Office of Legislative Services stands watch over the documents at all times. The nonpartisan office at the capital complex also prepares the material for examination. Once a committee member has presented proper identification they're granted entry to the room and free access to anything they want to review.
Handlin said no one is expecting to find a smoking gun among these pages. "It's much like building a 3D model and all we can do now is start to identify the contours," said Handlin. "Over time as more material comes in we'll be able to build up layer by layer by layer and see what really happened here."
State Sen. Linda Greenstein, one of eight Democrats on the committee, was getting her first look at the documents Friday morning. She said she's just looking for answers. "It's a tough job and it's a slow job. I don't think it's going to happen overnight," said Greenstein.
"On the one hand what you want is that one little place, that eureka moment that will tie it together," said Greenstein. But she cautioned against any rush to judgment and said the material needs to be understood in context. "I am going to need several reads to get a sense of what they are saying and how it all fits together."
Greenstein said they'll follow the evidence wherever it takes them with the ultimate goal of understanding exactly what happened in Fort Lee.
So far, former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, a Christie appointee, and three other current employees of the bi-state agency have submitted documents pertaining to the lane closures to the investigative committee.
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, has refused to hand over material. Her lawyer cited her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and her rights to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
Kelly wrote the now infamous email that said "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee" to which David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority responded, "Got it."
Bill Stepien, Christie's re-election campaign chairman, is also fighting the committee's subpoena.
The Legislative Select Committee on Investigations will meet in Trenton at the start of next week.