By David Cruz
The last time there was this much work at the Helix was when it was built 74 years ago. Then, people thought it was hot stuff. Today, it’s a necessary evil for motorists trying to get into the City from Jersey, and starting Monday it will be the source of much traffic indigestion as a two-year, $88 million rehabilitation project kicks off. The project will close the eastbound lanes of Helix and one lane of westbound traffic. The project calls for repaving and rehabbing the concrete deck and fixing the deteriorating steel under the roadway.
What residents can expect, especially around the intersection of the Marginal Highway and Pleasant Avenue is what officials are calling “increased vehicular volume,” something they’re used to during rush hour but not usually overnight.
“It’s good at least that they’re doing something about it because the Helix has been really bad,” said Debbie Calligy, who lives on Pleasant Avenue. “I guess you have to work with it. There’s really nothing you can do about it.”
Faith Mazure says she’s not looking forward to the overnight traffic that’s expected to clog her block of Pleasant Avenue. “No one’s going to get any sleep because people are going to be honking,” she said. “I feel bad for anyone who lives around here. You’re not going to be able to get through. It’s not going to happen.”
Consider yourself lucky that this work will take place overnight, so the commute to work for most of us will not be affected. But not everyone has a 9 to 5, so anyone taking mass transit into the City overnight should allow for extra time.
“We don’t know what that extra time is ultimately going to be especially from night to night, so we’re estimating about 40 minutes to 45 minutes until our customers, and our bus operators, get acclimated,” said NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder.
Add this to delays at the GWB and construction projects on other highways in the region and you’ve got a perfect storm of traffic congestion and limited access. The “Helix Fix” as the Port Authority is calling it, is major, but it’s not the ultimate fix. Some time in the future, the Helix will be completely replaced. The Port Authority won’t say exactly when, but that’s an inconvenience for another day.