The busy Pulaski Skyway that connects Manhattan-bound drivers to the Holland Tunnel will be closed this weekend, a precursor to a long-term shutdown that will begin this winter.
As workers replace the first of 21 original steel floor beams on the 81-year-old bridge, the highway will be closed in both directions from 9 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday.
Making things more complicated, the detours by Tonnele Circle -- the ramps to Route 139 -- will also be closed.
Drivers should expect heavy delays in the area.
Although this closure only lasts for the weekend, the key New Jersey highway will be closed for two years beginning in February 2014, just after the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
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, officials said.
"This work is to repair the bridge, make sure it's in good condition and extend its life another 75 years," said a Department of Transportation official.
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.
"That means everyone will be going to the turnpike and driving through Jersey City itself," limo driver Mohammed Abraham grumbled Friday.
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.
Vernest Brown of Jersey City wasn't pleased with any of the options.
"If it has to be fixed, it has be fixed, but I kind of think they can maybe have some other detours to alleviate the traffic, because it's gonna be ridiculous."
The 81-year-old bridge typically handles 67,000 cars and trucks per day. Officials have said the $1 billion repair is cheaper and faster than the $5 billion it would cost to knock down the bridge and build a new skyway.