New Jersey panel finds no evidence Chris Christie was involved in bridge lane closures
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (AFP)

A New Jersey panel investigating lane closures to the George Washington Bridge last year, which sparked a political firestorm, said in an interim report it had found no evidence that Governor Chris Christie was involved, local media reported.

Christie, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, suffered a setback from the "Bridgegate" scandal. Critics said the closures were an act of political retribution.

"At present, there is no conclusive evidence as to whether Governor Chris Christie was or was not aware of the lane closures either in advance of their implementation or contemporaneously as they were occurring," the report said, according to NJ Advance Media.

"Nor is there conclusive evidence as to whether Governor Christie did or did not have involvement in implementing or directing the lane closures," it added.

The legislative panel formed to investigate the shutdown of access lanes to the bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in September 2013. Four days of closures caused massive snarls that delayed school buses, ambulances and commuters.

Critics alleged that Christie's allies shut the lanes to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for failing to endorse the governor's re-election bid. Christie has adamantly denied knowing about the incident at the time or being involved.

A law firm hired by Christie to investigate the scandal exonerated him in March. That review blamed former members of Christie's inner circle, whom he fired soon after the scandal erupted. A criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey continues.

The interim report added that the Christie administration has "responded very slowly" to the inquiry and that numerous crucial witnesses have not yet testified, according to NJ Advance Media.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Larry King)