JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — It wasn't "car-mageddon." In fact, the first weekday commute with the inbound Pulaski Skyway closed wasn't much different from a normal Monday.
School vacations and a holiday week combined to keep traffic light and give commuters a break from what figures to be a long haul for those who use the 82-year-old span to drive into Jersey City or lower Manhattan. Inbound traffic will be detoured for the next two years for repairs. The bridge officially closed Saturday.
"We're somewhat surprised, to say the least," Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said as he stood in front of a bank of video screens at the city's emergency management headquarters that showed intersections in the city where backups were expected to form. Midway through the morning commute, traffic moved smoothly on all the screens.
"This is kind of like a dress rehearsal for next Monday," Fulop added. "But the dress rehearsal is going well."
Transportation officials were urging commuters to carpool or take rail, bus or ferry. New Jersey Transit and PATH were offering additional train service or expanding capacity on regularly scheduled trains. An NJ Transit spokesman said there were no reports of overcrowding or delays on trains traveling through the affected areas, and a PATH spokesman said ridership actually was down by about 4,500 riders compared with last Monday. A spokesman for New York Waterway said ridership totals weren't available yet for its high-speed service from Monmouth County to lower Manhattan.
Police officers were visible at numerous intersections along Communipaw Avenue, a main artery stretching toward downtown Jersey City. The city is deploying more than 50 officers for traffic control, funded by the state transportation department. James Shea, Jersey City's director of public safety, said his department was prepared to have the officers available for the entire two-year project but added that he hoped to be able to reduce them once motorists become familiar with the new patterns.
From his vantage point in front of a gas station where Communipaw Avenue meets Routes 1 & 9, newspaper hawker Clavon Pearson is something of a traffic expert. Monday's volume wasn't much higher than normal, he said.
"It's a little backed up here because they changed the timing of the lights," Pearson said. "But it's really not as bad as I thought it would be."
When the inbound lanes are completed in about a year, outbound traffic will use those lanes so the outbound lanes can be repaired. Transportation officials opted to close one side of the roadway for the entire two years rather than confine work to nights and weekends to save time and money. The roadway deck, railings and drainage system are to be replaced along with sections of the bridge's underside and supports where corrosion has eaten away at the steel.
The approximately $1 billion project was absolutely essential to maintaining the bridge's integrity and avoid a total closure in the future, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said last week.