Numerous transportation projects moved forward over the past year, intending to keep pace with the evolution of Hudson County. With Super Bowl 2014 on the way and many new residents moving to the county, the bridges, trains, and bike lanes are being expanded and reinforced for the future.
The Skyway’s new lease on life
The Pulaski Skyway begins at Raymond Boulevard in Newark, crosses portions of Kearny, and connects to Route 1 & 9 in Jersey City, serving motorists between Newark and Jersey City and connecting to the Holland Tunnel. A $1 billion project to rehabilitate the 80-year-old elevated highway, which carries 67,000 vehicles daily, was announced in January, to be funded by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.
In 2014, the 3.5 mile deck will be replaced, necessitating closure of the two northbound lanes for as long as two years. According to a Port Authority press release, the two southbound lanes will remain open during the duration of the project.
To avoid traffic congestion, the skyway’s northbound lanes will not close for repairs until after the February 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Hoboken and Jersey City are adding more bike lanes.
Although the lane closures will be an inconvenience for many, the Port Authority says that closing them rather than just doing the work on nights and weekends will cut four years off construction and save more than $210 million.
For further information visit www.nj.gov/transportation, scroll to “In the Works” then to “Our Projects & the Environment” and click on “Pulaski Skyway.”
The Bayonne Bridge, and preserving jobs
The Bayonne Bridge project began in December of 2010 to raise the bridge from 151 to 215 feet. The bridge, owned and operated by the Port Authority, connects Bayonne with Staten Island over the Kill Van Kull, the waterway provides access to container ports in the lower Newark Bay. Raising the bridge will allow the new larger class of Panamax container ships to travel through after the Panama Canal is upgraded in 2014.
A 2009 Bayonne Bridge Air Draft Analysis made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated that raising the bridge would produce an estimated $3.3 billion national benefit and that 12 percent of all U.S. international container ships will pass through it.
The estimated cost for raising the bridge is $1.3 billion, and the work will allow vehicular traffic to continue throughout construction.
The Port Authority estimates that if all goes according to plan, the new larger ships will be able to access the port in the fall of 2015.
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail expansions planned
The extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has been in the works since May of 2011 when it was approved by the NJ Transit Board of Directors. The project will expand farther west into Jersey City towards the Newark Bay waterfront with the hopes of also easing traffic congestion along the Route 440 corridor.
According to a press release, the project includes a .7 mile, two-track extension from the West Side Avenue Station across Route 440 to the northern end of a redevelopment zone along the Hackensack River.
In order for the project to be eligible for federal funding it was included in the NJ Transportation Planning Authority’s Long Range Plan.
The project is still in the planning stage, with the transit agency doing an environmental assessment.
The light rail – which currently runs from Bayonne to North Bergen and West New York – may also expand further north. Transit officials have proposed the Northern Branch Corridor project to extend the light rail through North Bergen to Fairview, Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, Englewood and Tenafly in Bergen County.
The project, like the Route 440 one, is in the early, environmental assessment stage.
“There is no set completion date for both the Northern Branch Corridor and 440 extension as both are in the environmental review/assessment process,” said spokesperson for NJ Transit Nancy Snyder.
For further information, visit www.northernbranchcorridor.com.
Improved mass transit to the Meadowlands
Meadowlands Phase II, a further extension of commuter rail service from NJ Transit’s Bergen County and Main Lines to the Sports Complex Station on Route 3, would include a new station to serve the Meadowlands area. NJ Transit has proposed to build the station and provide rail service for major events such as Super Bowl 2014 and daily service to the “American Dream” retail and entertainment complex. Currently the lower levels of Secaucus Junction can hold eight-car trains and that will be expanded to ten.
Since 2009, riders have responded positively to the occasional rail service from Hoboken Terminal and Secaucus Junction to the Meadowlands Sports Complex for major events at MetLife Stadium. Routinely 10,000 people use the service for football games while 22,000 use it for concerts.
The rail service was also a contributing factor to the National Football League (NFL) deciding to host the Super Bowl 2014 at MetLife Stadium.
Park n’ ride expansions
NJ Transit has also begun providing free parking at light rail stations in Bayonne, Jersey City, and North Bergen. As of Feb. 16, NJ Transit has offered free weekend parking on Saturdays from 12:01 a.m. until the end of service on Sundays at all five park/ride locations along the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system. It is a one-year pilot program which is aimed at encouraging the use of the light rail system and increasing weekend ridership.
The locations taking advantage of free parking on the two days listed above are the 22nd Street and 34th Street in Bayonne; West Side Avenue and Liberty State Park in Jersey City; and Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.
The light rail provides more than 40,000 weekday trips between all 24 stations in Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen, according to an NJ Transit press release.
For Hudson-Bergen Light Rail schedules, fares or information visit www.njtranist.com or call (973) 275-5555.
During his State of the City Address in February 2013, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy announced a plan started last year to install 35.2 miles of striped lanes, and an additional 19.5 miles of shared lanes, for a total of 54.7 miles of bike lanes in his city.
Last year an ordinance was unanimously approved by the Hoboken City Council for 10 miles of new bike lanes. Currently Hoboken has nearly two and a half miles of bike lanes. The city hopes to redesign Observer Highway, a federally funded project that will add .34 miles of a two-way protected bike lane known as a cycle track. During her State of the City Address in February, Mayor Dawn Zimmer mentioned redesigning Observer Highway into Observer Boulevard.
“It will transform an important gateway to Hoboken from a dangerous speedway into a complete street with a protected cycle track, walking path, and new signals to better manage traffic and provided safe crossings for pedestrians,” said Zimmer. “This year, Hoboken was recognized as a bicycle-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists.”
River Road, a major artery in north Hudson, was transformed into a bicyclist’s haven in July 2012 when former Legislative Action Officer of the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey Ted Semegran began his quest of procuring bike lanes. In 2006 the bike lanes received approval from the county freeholders. Cyclists can ride for half a mile starting from Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen toward Bulls Ferry Road in Weehawken. River Road also has .33-miles of bike lanes southbound in Guttenberg and West New York.
A more ambitious project benefiting bicyclists is called the Harbor Ring, a 50-mile Transportation Alternatives Project that will encircle New York Harbor and pass through several towns in Hudson County. Most of the route already exists, with a missing link at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Ultimately, the 50-mile route will connect Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Bayonne, Jersey City, and Hoboken.
“The Harbor Ring will not only benefit Hudson County health enthusiasts, but the local economy as well,” said Meredith Sladek of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s leading transportation advocacy organization.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org