Expect your commute between NY, NJ to get much worse as repair project starts

NEW YORK — One of the most-heavily trafficked roadways on the East Coast is about to get even more clogged for commuters who travel between New York and New Jersey.

One lane of Route 495 in each direction will be closed 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning mid-summer as part of a $90 million repair project, New Jersey Department of Transportation officials said. The work will take an estimated 2 1/2 years.

With limited ways for commuters to travel between New York and New Jersey, AAA Northeast spokesman John Corlett said the only thing commuters can do is leave early.

“There’s really no great alternative for drivers,” he said. “It’s going to be a  tough time for drivers and commuters.”

Transportation officials suggest drivers adjust their travel times to avoid being on the road during rush hour altogether, if possible. They’re also hoping people will use public transportation or carpool. The exclusive bus lane will remain operational during construction.

“NJ TRANSIT is currently developing plans to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the impact to our bus customers in this heavily congested corridor,” an agency spokeswoman said.

About 9,200 vehicles an hour drive over the helix headed to and from the Lincoln Tunnel during the a.m. rush, transportation officials said. It’s even worse at night when traffic averages about 10,000 vehicles an hour.

With that level of traffic, the American Highway Users Alliance estimates drivers spend 3.4 million hours a year trapped in traffic at the tunnel.

The morning rush into New York lasts from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., state transportation department official Steve Schapiro said. During that period, the traffic averages about 9,200 vehicles — including 650 buses — per hour, they say. In the evening, the outbound traffic is even heavier, averaging more than 10,000 vehicles per hour.

“The biggest challenge on this project is the fact that it is a critical commuter artery into New York City and there are no alternate routes nearby that traffic may shift to during construction on the mainline,” Schapiro said.