A key New Jersey highway to the Holland Tunnel will be closed for two years beginning in 2014, creating what will likely be a nightmare for commuters going to Lower Manhattan, NBC 4 New York has learned.
Pulaski Skyway will be out of commission for New York-bound drivers beginning in February of next year, after Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.
The 80-year-old bridge is "massively used, massively worn out," according to one transportation source, who declined to be named because local officials won't be briefed until Thursday morning.
The $1 billion project is expected to be announced Thursday in Newark.
While rebuilding the Pulaski to last another 75 years will take several years, the project that affects New York-bound commuters will last about two years.
During that time, two of the bridge's four lanes will be redecked at a time, but only outbound traffic will be allowed, no matter which lanes are under construction, transportation sources said.
Drivers who regularly traverse the Pulaski Skyway unhappily calculated the extra time it would take them to cross the highway during the closure.
"It's going to take me an hour or two later to go home because there's going to be traffic on the other side," said Aliyah Gray of Jersey City. "I'm upset."
But David Serro, also of Jersey City, understood the necessity of updating the old infrastructure.
"If they need to maintain the highway, they necessarily have to do something to it," he said. "We have to maintain it. If not, it's just going to be a dilapidated highway."
Hudson County executive Tom DeGise recognized it would present a "horrible, horrible predicament."
But DeGise said there are no good alternatives for work on a bridge that was built with the same truss construction as an interstate highway span that collapsed in Minnesota several years ago, killing several motorists.
The challenge for commuters heading into the city, or even Jersey City or Hoboken, is that there are few practical alternatives.
The only other highway leading to the Holland Tunnel is the Newark Bay extension of the New Jersey Turnpike, and it often backs up several miles during morning rush hour.
Otherwise, New Jersey motorists could be expected to take local streets through Jersey City to get to the tunnel, or take the busy Lincoln Tunnel to midtown and then drive downtown. They could also drive up to the equally busy George Washington Bridge and down the crowded West Side Highway.
In perhaps as the least attractive alternative, drivers might take the overburdened Goethals Bridge to the always-packed Staten Island Expressway to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Gowanus Expressway before finally entering Lower Manhattan through the cramped Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
However, a source said alternatives will be presented that might offer some hope for commuters during the two most crucial years of the project.