Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Another Forecast of Traffic Turmoil

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Another Forecast of Traffic Turmoil

Article excerpt

Transportation officials sounded a siren last summer: Road work would lead to prolonged and unprecedented backups at the George Washington Bridge. The traffic jams never materialized, largely because motorists heeded the warnings and stayed away.

Now, the Port Authority is making similar predictions -- and again warning motorists to avoid the span -- due to a separate project that they expect to cause consistent late-night backups of up to one hour every weeknight for the rest of the year. Starting Monday night, three of four lanes in one direction on the upper level of the world's busiest bridge will be closed while workers replace sections of the aging steel underpinning of the roadway.

The upper-level work and lane closures -- only one lane will remain open -- will alternate between the eastbound and westbound sides. Next week, all but one westbound lane on the upper level will be closed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The following week it will be the New York-bound side of the upper deck that is mostly closed. The work is expected to last about five months.

Each day, some 300,000 people cross the George Washington Bridge - - a critical artery for cars and trucks traveling between the Midwest and New England, and a vital connection between New York and New Jersey.

Authority officials said they were concerned that motorists would disregard this year's warning due to last year's false alarm.

"I worry about that all the time, but I still believe it's important for us" to warn people, said the agency's director of bridges and tunnels, Cedrick Fulton. "If, in fact, [the predicted delay] doesn't manifest itself, we all win. But here, the numbers speak for themselves with only one lane being open.

"One lane is one lane," he said.

Fulton said a large crane that will be lifting out old sections of the deck, 362 of them in all, and replacing them with new ones will likely distract drivers and slow traffic even more. …

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