Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bridge Repairs To Cause Massive Headaches For NY Drivers

The Alexander Hamilton bridge, which spans the Harlem River and is a huge bottleneck for anyone who takes the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York, is currently undergoing a huge reconstruction and rehabilitation project. New lanes are being added, and traffic diversions are a regularly occurring feature.

Now, those construction headaches are being taken to another level as the upcoming phase of construction will further limit the number of lanes available.
Getting across the world’s busiest bridge is rarely easy during rush hour, but traffic engineers estimate that backups on eastbound Route 95 could extend to Route 80 in Hackensack — nearly five miles from the bridge — and down the New Jersey Turnpike, a New York Department of Transportation spokesman said Tuesday. Traffic heading back to New Jersey from New York will not be affected.

Significant and consistent delays on North Jersey’s busiest traffic arteries could also mean spillover into side streets, as commuters look for alternative routes, experts said.

A Port Authority spokesman said the agency was not aware of a past road repair project that caused such a sustained and severe impact on traffic flow at the bridge, crossed easterly by 140,000 vehicles per day. But because the project is in New York, the delays are sure to take some New Jersey commuters by surprise on Monday morning.

“I wasn’t even aware that there was a project, but you can bet that until it’s done, I’ll be taking the train,” Kris Baker, 47, of Teaneck said after learning about the construction on Tuesday. He said he usually drives to his job at a bank in Manhattan.

The expected backups are due to a $409 million rehabilitation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, a nearly 50-year-old arch span that carries Route 95 traffic over the Harlem River, between Manhattan and the Bronx. The mostly federally funded project, the largest the New York State Department of Transportation has ever undertaken, will extend the bridge’s life another 75 years. Work is under way, but the fourth of six phases will involve resurfacing the bridge. As a result, the middle section of the eastbound highway will be closed, with traffic diverted to new lanes that curve around it on both sides.

Officials say once completed about two years from now, the same New Jersey roads that will be clogged over the next several months will see fewer delays because of the span’s repaved surface and additional breakdown lane.
Transportation officials are expecting that New York bound drivers could face delays of miles during the rush hour. They figure that traffic will back up more than 5 miles into Hackensack and the I80/I95 split.

This is what happens when you try to get 7 lanes of inbound traffic down to four restricted lanes. It also means that traffic from the upper level will have an even tougher time trying to cross traffic to get to the Major Deegan (I87/I287).

Still, the project is absolutely critical since it would extend the life of the bridge by another 75 years, plus it adds a breakdown lane - eliminating traffic bottlenecks that were an all too normal occurrence when there were accidents or breakdowns before construction began.

The only real alternatives for trucks is to either go up to the Tappan Zee bridge or to sit in traffic.

Commuters ought to seriously consider mass transit to avoid the headaches, but those who cannot commute by mass transit or who are driving across the span will have massive delays to contend with. Localities on both sides of the bridge will find major traffic problems as drivers clog up local streets.

And the problems will get worse once the Port Authority begins its reconstruction project on the Lincoln Tunnel helix.

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