Under the Route 139 ramp leading to the Holland Tunnel on Monday, busy welders made emergency repairs to support beams. On Friday night, a fire broke out under the ramp, causing the damage and resulting in massive gridlock over the weekend.
“The traffic was backed up across everywhere. You couldn’t even get in that way it was so backed up. When I came in with the car you couldn’t get in. You had to park in another direction,” said Jersey City resident Cora Chisolm.
The roadway is responsible for funneling thousands of commuters from Manhattan to New Jersey. On Monday, transportation authorities warned travelers of possible delays during rush hour commutes and urged commuters to use mass transportation and avoid the Holland Tunnel altogether. A spokesperson for New Jersey’s Department of Transportation said the situation is fluid, but improving.
“So, we have four lanes available to traffic in the westbound direction, normally there are five lanes there, so that should help out quite a bit. Over the weekend, we only had three lanes available,” said Steve Schapiro, director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The damage reminded commuters just how vital this region is for transportation, as it screeched to a near halt this weekend. As a result, transit agencies are beefing up options. NJ Transit is increasing light rail capacity and adding extra buses along certain routes. PATH will add extra trains during rush hour. On average, about 2,600 vehicles use this road during rush hour to get from Manhattan to New Jersey.
“Approximately 46,000 daily go through the Holland Tunnel. Not all of those are using this roadway, but the majority would be,” said Schapiro.
Crews have been working around the clock to repair the support beams, but authorities tell NJTV News it will take weeks, if not months, to repair the damage.
“We expect it will be at least several weeks, possibly longer. The engineers and design team are currently doing their evaluations designing a permanent repair,” said Schapiro.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation while structural damage is being assessed.
“This traffic is hideous and it looks like it’s going to get even worse because it’s going to stay this way for a while,” said Jersey City resident Belinda Council.
For now, the DOT is warning commuters to plan extra time for their travel. Leave ahead or after normal rush hour to spread out congestion. And since it’s the westbound, not eastbound lanes affected, evening commutes are expected to be the toughest.