By Erin Delmore
This week marks two years since the DOT closed traffic on parts of the Pulaski Skyway. And if you thought you’d be smooth sailing on the newly-laid northbound lanes by now, try again next year.
“Well about a year ago when we were talking about the project, we did announce that we’d be working through at least the end of this year, and now that winter’s coming to a conclusion, we’ll be reevaluating that again just to see where things are,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Spokesman Steve Schapiro.
The DOT is knee-deep in a $1 billion project to rehabilitate the 84-year-old structure. That involves re-deck the original bridge with more than a million square feet of panel.
“Contract three, which is the majority of the northbound lanes, is nearly complete. And then contract four is the southbound lanes, as well as a portion of the northbound lanes, on the eastern side of the bridge, near Jersey City, and so that is also well under way,” Schapiro said.
When can we expect the northbound lanes to reopen?
“So, the northbound lanes will stay closed throughout the entire contracts three and four because of the way the detours are set up with the alternate routes using the Turnpike extension and using 1 and 9 truck,” Schapiro said.
The DOT is moving traffic from the southbound lanes onto a portion of the newly-reconstructed northbound lanes — months behind schedule.
“This summer we’ll have traffic shifted from the southbound lanes to the northbound lanes, and then we’ll be doing work on the southbound deck,” Schapiro said.
1932’s “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” is one of today’s most corroded, broken down by decades of exposure to salt, water and weather — at points, paper thin with gaping holes. Crews have been working under the southbound lanes. They couldn’t get eyes on the steel until they broke down its concrete casing. All that comes at a cost.
“There’s been a slight increase in the cost of three and four, contracts three and four, because of additional steel work. The good news is, we were able to identify that before contract four was put out to bid. So that one has only increased a million or two dollars. Overall, it’s a $210 million contract. Contract three, which was $126 million when it was awarded, has increased somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $20 million because of the additional steel work,” Schapiro said.
That sets off a chain effect. The longer the steel takes, the longer crews wait to pour concrete around it. The colder it is, the longer that concrete takes to set and if it’s too cold, the DOT says they can’t do it. Wait until spring.
The Pulaski Skyway will be closed in both directions this weekend so crews can install more deck panels. Around the end of this year or early next, the DOT will be going out to bid for contracts five and seven: redecking the ramps. Then it’s on to the substructure. Last step? Painting. The DOT says the project is still on track to be completed in 2020.