Gov. Christie holds 1st news conference in months to announce $300M statehouse renovations

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday held his first news conference in about two months to announce a $300 million renovation of the New Jersey statehouse, which he described as being “subject to catastrophic failure.”

A complete renovation of the New Jersey statehouse will begin immediately, the governor said.

Staff will be moved into other office space in Trenton by July for a four-year, $300 million project. Parts of the building date to the 18th century.

“We will absolutely evacuate this building no later than July (2017),” Christie said. “The building, in short, is subject to catastrophic failure in numerous places.”

He says the current condition of the statehouse is shameful and hasn’t had a major upgrade since 1958. He says that the part of the building used by the executive branch doesn’t have fire sprinklers and there are a number of code violations.

Christie says the statehouse shouldn’t be the symbol of government in the state and workers and tourists shouldn’t have to worry about being unsafe in the building.

The Republican’s announcement, which was held at the Statehouse Rotunda, was initially billed as a news conference in which reporters could not ask questions, but was later billed on Christie’s updated schedule as a “press announcement” with no availability to question Christie, who hasn’t held a news conference in about two months.

Christie answered some questions on his regular call-in show last week.

There had been speculation Christie could be tapped for a post in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. But he was replaced as chief of Trump’s White House transition team and the governor has recently said he intends to finish his final year in office while leaving the door open to a Trump offer.

Meanwhile, two of the governor’s former allies have been found guilty of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations in the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

A jury concluded that Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and Christie’s appointee to be deputy executive director of the Port Authority Bill Baroni carried out a plan to severely block traffic for five days in September 2013, beginning on the first day of school that year.

It was allegedly retaliation against Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, where the western end of the bridge is located, after Sokolich did not endorse Christie for reelection.

Another Christie ally, senior Port Authority manager David Wildstein, admitted to overseeing the traffic nightmare plan. He testified against Kelly and Baroni in court.

All three said in sworn testimony that Chris Christie lied about not knowing about the plot until well after it happened. They said that at the very latest, Christie knew that the Bridgegate traffic blockage was underway on September 11, 2013.

However, in a statement released less than an hour after the verdict came down, Christie pointed the finger back at the people who’d just been convicted.

PIX11 News’ James Ford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.