UNION CITY – New Jersey Transportation Department officials told the Assembly Transportation Committee Thursday they reviewed various alternatives to rehabilitate the Pulaski Skyway without shutting down the lanes, but none seemed practical and all would have resulted in more time and extra costs .
The 3.5-mile-long elevated highway has not had much major work done to it since it opened in 1932. It serves 67,000 cars daily, with 3,500 alone in the morning peak hours.
If they decided to do work on the project only at night and on weekends, the project would have taken an extra year, or a total of three years, to complete and would have cost an extra $210 million.
And closing only one lane instead of both lanes is impractical and unsafe because the lanes are narrower than most highways.
The $1 billion project calls for replacement of the road surface, piers, steel structures, lighting, and lamps, all moves that will help bring it up to a high standard and even enable it to sustain an earthquake that measures a 6.0 on the Richter Scale.
“We’re going to upgrade it. It’s going to be up to current standard,” said Rich Hammer, assistant commissioner of the Transportation Department.
“The underlying deck is in very poor condition and in need of replacement,” said Anthony DeJohn, an engineer working with DOT.
Some $90 million in “interim repairs” were done on the bridge in 2008, but DeJohn said those repairs’ are only effective for five years.
“We’re nearing the end of that life cycle,” he said.
Even though the highway is rusting at spots and leaks are common, officials didn’t go so far as to call it unsafe.
The project is slated to begin in March 2014, with northbound traffic essentially banned for the two years it will take for completion. The northbound lanes, which lead to New York City, will be shut down first. Once they are complete, the southbound lanes will be worked on. However, the northbound lanes will be used for southbound traffic during that time.