The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is taking a step to reduce the major southbound delays that have developed approaching the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Sixteen lanes have been forced to merge into 2 all summer because of a tower-painting project that has closed down a lane in each direction on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, creating daily multi-mile delays on the New Jersey Turnpike approaching the toll plaza for interchange No. 1.

In an effort to better manage the traffic, the Turnpike Authority will close eight toll lanes at the toll plaza, leaving two EZ Pass lanes to the left and six lanes for both cash and EZ Pass to the right.

That's right — the Turnpike Authority is closing lanes to reduce traffic.

NJ Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro explains the logic of it:

"Fewer lanes will have to merge coming out of the toll plaza. The traffic was so heavy that drivers were getting out of their cars, creating unsafe conditions."

In other words, the merge will be a bit better controlled as drivers make their way into fewer toll lanes — and not after coming through, where 16 lanes of drivers have been cramming into the same bottleneck

Schapiro said the Turnpike Authority tried to get the the Delaware River and Bay Authority to change its work schedule. It may not have made a difference, however, as a Delaware-bound lane was to remain closed at all hours for the duration of the project.

Turnpike spokesman Thomas Feeney doesn't expect the toll lane closures to completely solve the problem.

"We expect there will still be significant delays in the area, and southbound drivers would be wise to take a different route," wrote Feeney in an email.

New Jersey Traffic's Bob Williams suggests exiting the Turnpike at exit No. 2 for Route 322 and crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge into Pennsylvania and taking Interstate 95 into Delaware and points south.

"That eliminates the Delaware Memorial Bridge completely from your travels," said Williams.

The tower painting project is not just for looks.

"The project is necessary to preserve the structural integrity of the steel,” DRBA senior engineer and project manager Gregory Pawlowski said in a statement.

All lanes will be open next weekend for the Labor Day Weekend between Friday, Sept. 4 and Monday, Sept. 7 and also during the Pope's visit at the end of September.  The project is expected to be complete by mid-November.