Construction looms for Lincoln Tunnel; Mayor assures that traffic woes will not affect township
A massive construction project at the Lincoln Tunnel slated to begin the weekend of April 8 was postponed to April 14, when rehabilitation and resurfacing of the elevated Route 495 roadway and the helix will cause heavy traffic delays to and from the tunnel in both directions. The initial plans were scrapped due to the inclement weather expected over the weekend. Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and Public Safety Director Jeff Welz assured that the extensive traffic problems at the tunnel will not overflow into the township's streets. "I don't think it will be a nightmare for our residents," Turner said. "The traffic may back up all the way to Pennsylvania on 495, but it's not going to back up on to the local streets. Diverting the traffic onto our local streets will not be tolerated." The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced the plans to resurface the roadways as part of a $500,000 improvement project early last week. The organization launched an aggressive advertisement campaign to inform commuters to stay away from the Lincoln Tunnel if possible, while the construction work was in progress. Extensive delays are expected, especially eastbound toward New York, during the construction hours at 8 p.m. on Friday through 9 a.m. on Saturday, then again at 8 p.m. on Saturday through 10 a.m. on Sunday. Port Authority officials were hopeful to have the work done during the course of one weekend, but are reserving the right to use a second weekend if necessary. The project will remove the concrete base and the asphalt paving on a 100-foot segment of the Route 495 helix, right over Boulevard East in the township. The project includes waterproofing, rehabilitation and reconstruction of steel bridge joints, as well as repaving the entire area. The plan is to keep at least one lane open for traveling east and two lanes open for traveling west, but that is subject to change. PA officials are encouraging commuters to use either the Holland Tunnel or George Washington Bridge, or to take public transportation. During construction, delays are expected to be at least an hour both into and out of New York. Welz said that the police have already been instructed as to what to do during the times of traffic crises. Keeping the township's main thoroughfares open to allow emergency vehicles to pass will be mandatory. "Extra officers will be on patrol," Welz said. "We have to make sure that this causes no public safety concerns to the town." Welz also said that the police would closely monitor the decibel levels of the construction crews' jackhammers so that they don't exceed the Hudson County noise ordinance. "This project should not have a negative impact on the safety of Weehawken," Welz said. "We have been anticipating this project and we have made the necessary plans. And we will be monitoring it very closely." In the past, to offset the traffic problems, Port Authority police officers would re-direct traffic through the township's streets, but Turner says that will not happen this time. "We understand that they have to do periodic repairs," Turner said. "But when they completely close down lanes, they think they can direct traffic onto our roads and that's not acceptable. We're going to be firm about this. We want to cooperate with a tunnel's roads that need repairs. But the Port Authority can obviously afford the costs to have the construction have the least amount of effect on our community." Turner added, "I'm very worried about it. But we're putting policies into place that will assure that the traffic will not effect us. The Port Authority has been getting worse and worse in taking local municipalities into consideration when they do construction. I want to make sure it's not going to be a nightmare." Welz said he is also concerned because construction projects tend to get delayed, as this one did because of impending weather conditions. "They have assured us that they will do their best to minimize the problems, but, of course, we're concerned," he said. "Hopefully, it will keep to one weekend, maybe two. We have assurances from the Port Authority that it will have little effect on Weehawken, and we have to take their word for it."