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DOT’s Prescription for Route 495 Repair Headaches: Patience

We’re facing two-and-a-half years of major disruption into and out of the Lincoln Tunnel as repair work on the Route 495 Viaduct goes into high gear this week

Starting Friday night, thousands of drivers headed for the Lincoln Tunnel on Route 495 will get squeezed into a bottleneck. That’s when two lanes will close — one in each direction — on the bridge crossing Routes 1 and 9 in North Bergen. Vehicles will have to merge from four lanes down to three. Traffic will jam and back up, and it’s going to stay that way for two-and-a-half years while workers rehabilitate the crumbling bridge.

“We are very sensitive to the fact that this project is going to impact folks’ lives for the next two-and-a-half years,” said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. “This is construction that can’t wait. If we want to restore infrastructure to what it should be, we’re all going to have to take a deep breath and be patient.”

The timing of the project couldn’t be worse, coming during the so-called second summer of hell as NJ Transit cancels multiple trains daily, leaving even fewer options for beleaguered commuters.

Read Op-Ed author’s call to ban cars from Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour

One hundred fifty thousand vehicles a day travel Route 495. And if drivers seek escape routes down side streets, police warn that they’ll be waiting to turn cars away and issue tickets to motorists who block the box in Weehawken, Union City, North Bergen or Secaucus. “…our main goal is we have to make sure the roads are open for police, fire, ambulance and school buses,” said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.

To help ease congestion, officials have detoured the 31st Street ramp from Kennedy Boulevard away from 495 westbound. The exclusive bus lane will continue to operate, so commuters can try park-and-rides at North Bergen and at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Or, take the George Washington or Goethals Bridges, or the Holland Tunnel.

“I hate to say, if you have to go to New York, don’t. But, there’ll be moments in time when people may feel that way,” said Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

Read the full story on NJTV News Online, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.

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