The eastbound New Jersey Turnpike extension, which connects Newark to Bayonne and Jersey City, has been completely closed due to what authorities are calling a "structural problem with the bridge deck."

Authorities said late Wednesday morning that it could take 36 hours before the lanes are reopened on the Newark Bay/Casciano Memorial bridge. That could mean the closure would extend into the Thursday night commute.

As an alternative, Hudson County-bound drivers can take Routes 1&9 or they can take the Turnpike to Exit 15W to County Route 508/Route 7. Both routes had heavy delays Wednesday afternoon.

On Wednesday night the Port Authority announced changes to the Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority Bus Terminal because of the closure. The tunnel will have three lanes of traffic in each direction to help with the extra traffic Wednesday night. In addition, the New York-bound express bus lane will be open on Thursday morning.

The eastbound bridge deck, located between Exits 14 and 14A, dropped several inches after the bearings between the bridge and a pier were overextended, according to the Turnpike Authority.

The issue was discovered after a contractor noticed the bearings had moved out of position. In light of this issue, the Authority said it is "evaluating similar bearings beneath the Extension to make sure there are no other problems."

The closure was announced by the Bayonne Office of Emergency Management on its Facebook page around 11 a.m. Wednesday. The Turnpike Authority published an alert on Twitter at 1:03 p.m.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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