Amtrak repairs at New York Penn Station last summer caused major headaches for some New Jersey rail riders. Now we get word about a much bigger travel nightmare looming on the horizon for drivers.

The 495 viaduct, the elevated stretch of highway that circles over Routes 1 and 9 and some rail tracks right before the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, is so old and dilapidated that it has to be rebuilt.

“We are expecting, once the project begins, to have significant delays and congestion," said Steve Schapiro, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. "It’s a very heavily traveled route. On a good day there’s congestion."

He noted the $90.3 million project is slated to begin probably at the end of next month.

“That viaduct was built in 1983: It’s 80 years old and we have to replace the bridge deck as well as make some repairs to the structural steel of the bridge," she said.

During the work one lane in each direction will be closed so the structure can be re-built section by section, which will cause significant delays.

But officials say it's worth it.

“The project is expected to take at least two years so we’re asking drivers to be patient," Schapiro said.

“It’s such an important commuter corridor that we can’t shut the bridge down like we might do in other areas. So we’ve got to do the best we can to keep as many lanes open as possible.”

He said the DOT estimates in the best case scenario travel time delays from the Turnpike heading into the tunnel will increase by seven to eight minutes with an extra three to four minutes of extra travel time heading out of the city in the opposite direction.

“If you’ve ever been on this highway, this is already one of the most traffic choked stretches of road on the east coast, so this is going to be a tremendous headache for drivers,” said John Corlett, the director of public affairs for AAA Northeast.

He pointed out capacity will be cut by 25 percent in each direction of the roadway.

Corlett noted signs have already been posted on the viaduct advising drivers of the project, urging them to consider alternate routes. But nearby side streets are already jammed during morning and afternoon rush hours and the other two ways to get into and out of New York City — the Holland Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge — are already heavily congested on a regular basis

“If you can adjust your time, if you can leave earlier or leave later to help spread out that traffic, that will help," Corlett said. "You might also want to consult with coworkers for car pooling options.”

Schapiro said you might also want to talk to your employer about the possibility of telecommuting.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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