By Candace Kelley
Commuters and businesses are bracing themselves for tomorrow. That’s when northbound closures on the Pulaski Skyway begin for repairs. The northbound lanes toward the Holland Tunnel will be closed for up to two years while it undergoes a major rehabilitation.
A major overhaul to the tune of $1 billion means removing sections of the bridge, upgrading roads and making structural repairs. The plans leave many commuters we spoke to very skeptical.
“It’s difficult enough without the closing and I can only imagine that it’s going to be a mess trying to get around all that traffic,” said Manny Raza of Newark.
During the two-year bridge project, the Department of Transportation is encouraging commuters to carpool and use public transportation. The PATH train in and out of Newark will add 6,000 seats and NJ Transit will increase rail capacity on its Raritan Valley Line to Newark Penn Station during rush hour, and has begun operating a new bus route.
It’s the route toward the Holland Tunnel that’s going to be interrupted. But The Department of Transportation suggests other routes for commuters. We drove one suggested alternate — the 1 and 9 truck route. It was a clear shot today.
Normally during peak travel time on weekdays, 3,500 cars an hour pass through the northbound lanes. But now they’ll all need someplace else to go.
The complexity of the project is gigantic. Repair will be done over water and businesses below and the scaffolding has already been put in place to catch debris and people.
Also in place is a plan for first responders in surrounding areas. Earlier today, police officers and firefighters from Newark, Kearny and Jersey City received instructions about brand new coordinated efforts about how to navigate the new traffic patterns during emergencies.
“We are going to be ready for everything. We are not going to wait for something to occur,” said Newark Interim Mayor Luis Quintana.
At Wilson’s Carpet & Furniture — located right under the Pulaski Skyway — owner Mike Wilson says he’s certain the traffic will be a nightmare, but it’s time for the bridge to be fixed.
“There’s pieces of it falling off all the time, so it’s a dangerous situation. It’s dangerous where we are standing right now to be quite honest. There is pieces of concrete that can fall off of it all the time,” Wilson said.
And for those of you wondering, officials say this project can’t be done at night or on the weekends. That would triple the construction period. With that in mind, many feel resigned to coping with the daily traffic nightmare.
“We will try and put a positive spin on it and take it as it comes,” said Wilson.
And the Department of Transportation suggests commuters map out a travel plan now. You can visit their website at www.PulaskiSkyway.com to overhaul your old way of getting around.