Major renovations on the 85-year-old George Washington Bridge over the coming decade will keep the iconic span alive into the next century, and officials say they're planning an intricate construction schedule to spare rush hour drivers from delays.
With more than 100 million crossings a year, the 85-year-old GWB is the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge, according to the New York Port Authority.
"Restore the George" is a package of 11 projects, part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's nearly $2 billion program to repair and rebuild key components of the bridge and its approach roads.
"We're balancing the reality of having a huge amount of capital projects and making sure we protect the rush hour," Cedric Fulton, director of bridges, tunnels and terminals, said. "We focus on construction during the overnight, (primarily) from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., only 7 percent of our traffic moves during that time."
The reality is that some work could creep close to the end of the rush, when the decision is made to start construction at 10 p.m. In the worst case, construction could begin at 9 p.m. if the schedule warrants, Fulton said.
Other options are closing lanes on weekends for 10 to 14 hours overnight. Typically, the authority has 17 "extended" 14-hour weekend closures each year, but Restore the George projects will require 50, Fulton said.
Notable projects will include:
- Replacing 592 of the bridge's 80-year-old vertical cables.
- Rehabilitating the 26,474 wires in each of the two main support cables that hold up the suspender ropes.
The George Washington Bridge was first opened to traffic in 1931. During the first full year of operation in 1932 more than 5.5 million vehicles used the original six-lane roadway.
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