TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Transportation officials announced yesterday the details of a plan to accommodate motorists who will not be able travel on the Pulaski Skyway northbound lanes for approximately two years starting in March 2014 while the bridge deck is replaced.
The Department is encouraging motorists to become familiar with the alternate routes and modes now, well in advance of the northbound lane closures.
“The Department has been working with transportation agencies, municipal and county officials, employers and other stakeholders over the past year to prepare alternatives for displaced motorists and to develop a plan to effectively communicate travel options,” Commissioner James Simpson said. “Thousands of commuters who participated in an online survey and shared information about their daily trips and their preferred alternatives have helped drive our efforts.”
Northbound travel on the Skyway from Newark toward Jersey City will be prohibited for approximately two years during a critical phase of the $1 billion Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project, during which time all four travel lanes on the historic, 3.5-mile-long structure will be replaced.
Except for eight weekends when the contractor will replace support beams across the width of the bridge, motorists will have use of both southbound travel lanes from Jersey City toward Newark during all peak travel periods.
Efforts have been aimed at accommodating northbound motorists, including those who occupy about 9,600 vehicles that travel to Jersey City, Hoboken and New York City on the Skyway northbound lanes each weekday morning during the peak period of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. At the height of the morning rush, the northbound Skyway lanes normally handle about 3,500 cars per hour.
The Department has estimated that if the combined capacity of all alternate routes and modes is fully utilized, all northbound Skyway motorists could be accommodated.
NJDOT has recommended the following travel alternatives:
New Jersey Turnpike Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension/I-78, where an eastbound shoulder will be converted into a third travel lane during morning and evening peak travel periods
New Jersey Turnpike Eastern Spur Route 1&9 T, where adaptive traffic signal control technology and entrance ramp improvements will help accommodate additional traffic heading toward Jersey City and New York City Public transportation enhancements to accommodate additional passengers on NJ TRANSIT rail and bus, and PATH trains. Additional ferry service is being explored.
Carpooling and vanpooling
Alternate route and mode capacity — The Department’s goal is to identify alternate routes and modes that exceed the morning peak traffic volume of 9,600 vehicles on the Skyway northbound lanes.
The following strategies are estimated to do so. NJDOT is engaged in ongoing efforts to identify more alternate travel capacity.
The additional travel lane on the Turnpike Extension will enable that route to accommodate about 4,500 additional vehicles per morning peak period. The third lane also will be available to motorists during evening commute hours.
1&9 T will be able to accommodate nearly 1,700 additional vehicles per morning peak
Turnpike Eastern Spur is expected to handle an additional 1,500 vehicles in the morning peak period
The Department is aware that crashes, breakdowns and other incidents snarl traffic on congested roadways. It is staging NJDOT Safety Service Patrol trucks and is arranging for tow trucks to respond to incidents as quickly as possible. It is also coordinating with Newark, Kearny and Jersey City emergency services to promote their timely responses to incidents.
NJ TRANSIT plans to add additional seating capacity on Raritan Valley Line trains operating to Newark Penn Station during the morning peak period from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from Newark Penn Station during the evening from4 p.m. to 8 p.m. peak. This will add 1,260 seats during each period.
Efforts are under way to enable NJ TRANSIT to debut a new bus line in early March, 2014 which will offer regular, peak-hour service along the Route 22 Corridor between Watchung and Newark Penn Station serving several intermediate communities via Mountain and Morris avenues. The new bus line, No. 95, would operate exclusively during peak hours, providing an additional 330 seats for customers during each travel period.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey plans to increase the frequency of PATH departures from Newark Penn Station to help accommodate additional NJ TRANSIT rail and bus customers.
In conjunction with a planned late-February 2014 rail schedule change, NJ TRANSIT will add two train trips each morning and two train trips each evening on the Morris & Essex Lines between Summit and Hoboken Terminal. Two of the trains will operate during the peak periods, with the other two trains operating just outside of peak times, resulting in an additional 900 seats each morning and evening.
Also in conjunction with the planned late-February 2014 rail schedule change, NJ TRANSIT will add one trip during the morning peak and one trip during the evening peak on the North Jersey Coast Line between Bay Head and Hoboken. This will add an additional 460 seats during each period. Additionally, robust PATH service in Hoboken will be able to accommodate additional customers for trips to Jersey City or New York City.
Carpools and vanpools:
NJDOT will provide $325-per-month subsidies to enable NJ TRANSIT to support up to 10 new vanpools capable of accommodating approximately 100 commuters.
Carpooling and commuter flexing trips around the peak travel period also are being encouraged by NJDOT to benefit the regional transportation network during peak travel times.
Among the agencies with whom the Department is working are Transportation Management Associations, which will work with large employers to promote vanpool or carpool opportunities for employees and help educate employees on other transit options.
TMAs are currently working with large employers in the Jersey City waterfront area to identify opportunities for employees to work from home or to flex the start of their workday around the peak morning travel period.
A project-specific website at www.pulaskiskyway.com where people can email questions or concerns and sign up for project updates and newsletters is available.
Social media outreach through Twitter to provide travel alerts and project information in a convenient and easily sharable format. Follow them at @skywayrehab .
Widget on 511nj.org for one-click information on Skyway region traffic conditions.
Approximately 5,000 motorists participated in the Department’s commuter survey earlier this year, providing trip information and alternate mode preferences. Of the 4,500 respondents who indicated that they use the Skyway, 78 percent indicated that their trips begin and end in New Jersey, with 60 percent of those trips destined for Jersey City or Hoboken.
A total of 18 percent of the respondents who take the Skyway indicated that they travel to and from New York City or Long Island.
Among key survey results regarding alternate routes or modes is the finding that 74 percent of motorists identified the New Jersey Turnpike’s I-78 Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension (39 percent) and Route 1&9 T (35 percent) as their preferred alternate routes.
Forty-six percent of the respondents indicated they would consider switching to public transportation, while 22 percent expressed an interest in flex-time or telecommuting.
Thirteen percent expressed interest in ridesharing, such as participating in a carpool or vanpool at least four days per week. Motorists interested in exploring ridesharing options are encouraged to contact either of two Transportation Management Associations, Meadowlink at www.ezride.org or Hudson TMA at www.hudsontma.org at their earliest convenience to learn how to participate in these programs. The TMAs will work with large employers to promote vanpool or carpool opportunities for employees.
In an effort to minimize inconvenience to motorists, NJDOT considered several options for reconstructing the four Skyway travel lanes before choosing to rebuild two lanes at a time. This approach promotes safety, maintains the flow of southbound Skyway traffic during construction, and shaves years from the time it would take to rebuild all four lanes under other construction staging options.
NJDOT announced a construction plan in January, 2013. The project is being carried out under 10 contracts and is expected to be completed in 2020.