Prepare for congestion — Turnpike Extension losing extra lane
An extra lane taking drivers to Jersey City and New York is about to go away for good but officials have pushed back the deadline — again — to give commuters more time to prepare.
The third travel lane on the Turnpike Authority's Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension will be closed on May 20.
The lane had been scheduled to go away on April 29, but officials pushed it back to May 6 before setting the latest deadline.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is advising drivers in the Hudson County area to prepare for heavy congestion once the right shoulder of the eastbound extension is eliminated.
The right shoulder will be coned off as work begins on the Extension, which links the main line of the Turnpike to an access point for the Holland Tunnel.
Since 2014, when the northbound Pulaski Skyway was closed to drivers, the Authority has been allowing motorists to use the right shoulder of the Extension during peak travel times in the morning and evening. The additional lane alleviated traffic issues on a daily basis in the Skyway's absence.
But the bonus lane was always meant to be temporary. And now that a $138.8 million construction contract is beginning on the Extension, which includes work that was deferred because of the Pulaski closure, the roadway will return to its normal configuration around the clock everyday, once construction is complete in 2022. For now, access to the shoulder is blocked off to facilitate construction.
"That work has to be done, and that work involves having only two lanes of traffic on the roadway," said Tom Feeney, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority. "There's no way to do that work and maintain three lanes."
When the closure of the shoulder begins, the overhead control system will display a continuous red X. After a few weeks, the system displays will be removed.
A permanent third lane of traffic on the shoulder would put a burden on the Extension that it was not meant to handle, the Turnpike Authority said.
Even though the reopening of the northbound Skyway has led to less volume on the Extension, the upcoming move is expected to impact traffic significantly. Motorists are strongly encouraged to avoid the area during peak travel times by finding alternate routes or using mass transit.
"Some people might have telecommuting or flex-time options that would allow them to avoid the area during peak periods," Feeney said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the latest date for the lane closure.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.