Neighboring towns brace for impact of roadwork on Route 495

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

The Route 495 bridge leads to and from the Lincoln Tunnel, Routes 3, and 1 and 9 in North Bergen. It was deemed “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.” It consists of nine spans and is nearly 9 decades old. It will cost $90 million to rehabilitate the rusting bridge, raggedy roadway and its lights, guide rails and more. Once construction begins, it’s expected to take place in 12 stages. Prep work started last September.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation says 152,000 cars, trucks and buses roll across this viaduct every day. It declined an on-camera interview, saying its website and videos lay out the particulars for the delayed project. The major work to resurface the east and westbound lanes is scheduled for this summer. When it starts, the DOT will leave three lanes open in each direction, but close one lane in each direction 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for about two and a half years.

“Unfortunately, there are limited alternative travel routes or options along this busy corridor for motorists heading to the Lincoln Tunnel,” the DOT video cited.

The DOT acknowledges Secaucus, Union City, North Bergen and Weehawken will get whacked.

“When you restrict 495 during daytime, during rush hours, during weekdays, even weekends, it creates a tremendous, tremendous traffic jam for the whole area,” said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.

Turner is among the local leaders scheduled to meet with the DOT next week. Among their concerns is better project coordination.

“As much work has to be done at night, you can’t close the ramp by Columbia Park,” said Turner. “This will be the only way out and maybe the only way in. It’s just not going to work.”

Turner says this marginal highway ramp to 495 and the area clog even in normal traffic, with traffic officers directing drivers and pedestrians to minimize congestion.

Turner says during the road construction project his city will have to post traffic officers all over the area to make sure their intersections stay clear.

“We can’t afford to man the intersections. It’s going to cost a fortune. Apparently, there’s no plans to give us any assistance. We have to keep these intersections open for emergency vehicles – police, fire, ambulances. Our residents have to get around. We’re afraid of a nightmare of total gridlock,” Turner said.

“Impacts to traffic coming from the city are expected, but we have installed intelligent transportation system equipment to help minimize them,” the DOT video said.

The DOT is urging commuters to car or van-pool, take public transportation, work from home or another site for the employer, adjust travel times or hit the Holland Tunnel or George Washington Bridge. On its website, the DOT has set up a hotline number, email address and a link for project alerts. In the meantime, there are major concerns.

“We live with traffic. We live with the tunnel. We know there has to be improvements, but it can’t be at the expense of the people who live here and the safety of the residents,” Turner said.