A fire damaged a ramp on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel this weekend and authorities are warning that it could cause a traffic nightmare during the week.
Commuters are strongly urged to take alternate means of transportation, including bus, rail and ferry, the Port Authority advised Sunday.
A fire on Friday night under the Route 139 ramp caused damage that has closed three of five westbound lanes on the New Jersey side, nearly all the way back to the tunnel, the Port Authority said. The fire was so large it scorched a nearby police SUV.
There are currently only two lanes and a shoulder left for use, which has led to backups through the tunnel and on Manhattan streets. The gridlock is expected to worsen when people return to work on Monday and throughout the week.
Despite all the work being done to mitigate traffic headaches, authorities say it will take weeks, if not months, to fully repair the damage from the fire.
Commuters have already been complaining that the tunnel has gotten very congested.
"I take the bus into the city, it's about an hour and 20 minute ride as it is," said Sam Wilken. "So I might have to make other arrangements."
Authorities say drivers should expect traffic delays in Jersey City and Hoboken. Lower Manhattan may also see delays on local streets accessing the tunnel.
"We hope that, with the possibility of the fourth lane being opened up in the next few days, that that will be mitigating," said Roger Prince, deputy director of Port Authority Bridges and Tunnels. "But for Monday, it will be a tough commute coming home through the Holland."
New Jersey Transit and Port Authority were increasing capacity on light rail and PATH train service during the morning and evening rush hours to ease expected traffic back-ups at tune tunnel, authorities said.
NJ Transit was also adding buses to routes along the Route 9 corridor to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Customers on the 120 and 64J bus routes should expect significant delays.
Customers should travel before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. to get seats, authorities said.