The 70-year-old Lincoln Tunnel helix in Weehawken that brings thousands of commuters in and out of New York City every day will undergo a major two-year restructuring beginning in August, according to Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.
In November of 2011, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners approved a contract with El Sol Contracting and Construction Corporation to keep the Lincoln Tunnel in line with what the Federal Transportation Administration calls a “State of Good Repair.” The projected cost for the project is $63.6 million, Coleman said.
Preliminary construction will begin in April on the underside and sides of the helix, but will not affect traffic. From August to mid-November, major construction will affect the inbound side of the helix, only during the late night hours. At that time, the helix will be closed some time between evening and morning rush hours and traffic will be redirected onto local streets. The helix will remain open during the day.
Because the project is temperature-sensitive, Coleman said, the work will be scaled back significantly between mid-November and April 1, but it will start up again in 2013 when they tackle the outbound side.
The structural rehabilitation of the helix will include repairs to the deck, pavement, beams, columns, support steel, and will upgrade the median barrier between the outbound and inbound sides.
“There have been constant repair projects over the years,” Coleman said, “but none as extensive at this.” The rehabilitation will allow for a complete replacement of the structure at some point in the future, which is necessary, he said.
“The rehabilitation must be done. It’s a matter of minimizing the disruption to our towns.” –Mayor Richard Turner
In August of 2013, work will begin on the outbound side of the helix.
“We are currently working up a very detailed plan to mitigate the traffic and noise impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods,” Coleman said.
“The discussions we’re having now with the Port Authority are similar to ones we’ve had about the work always being done on the tunnel,” Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. “We have an ongoing working relationship with the Port Authority and they’ve been doing a good job of keeping us informed.”
Coleman said, “As we get closer to construction, there will be extensive outreach done to make sure that everyone is aware of the detours that will be put in place and of the alternate routes available to them.”
As to just how bad the traffic will be, he said, “It all depends on how many people follow our directions and divert to either the Holland Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge.”
He said these alternate routes will be heavily pushed because they will be key to minimizing local traffic.
“We are trying to minimize the impact on traffic and noise, and we’re working out the timing of it all,” Turner said. “None of that has been finalized yet.” He is pushing to have the construction done as late at night as possible.
When there have been tunnel diversions in the past, Turner said, a majority of the traffic was directed out to Route 495 and therefore confined to that area of Weehawken. “Historically, you don’t get a lot of spillover into the neighboring towns if you do the construction before the morning and after the evening rush hours,” he said.
Turner said a more detailed plan should be laid out within the next month.
“The key is to notify everyone as early as possible,” he said. Once the construction begins, the Weehawken and Port Authority police departments will handle the logistics of traffic control.
The noise pollution from construction “will be in the general vicinity of where the work is being done,” Coleman reported.
“There are a lot of things you can do to mitigate the noise,” Turner said. “You’ll never eliminate everything 100 percent, but that’s what we’re discussing now.”
Announcements concerning actual closing times and traffic diversion routes should be released some time toward the end of March or early April.
“It’s not a question of saying yes or no,” Turner added. “The rehabilitation must be done. It’s a matter of minimizing the disruption to our towns, and the Port Authority has been very cooperative thus far.”
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