New York State's costliest bridge-and-road repair project enters a new phase Saturday night -- and for Long Island-bound travelers using the George Washington Bridge through to the Cross Bronx Expressway, the next three months will be particularly disruptive.
The state Department of Transportation is to start the fourth stage of six in its $407 million repair and improvement project for the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which spans the Harlem River in the Bronx.
With the work zone focusing on the bridge's center, traffic is expected to back up eastbound between the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx.
Upper and lower levels of the George Washington also will be affected because an extra lane has to be created eastbound to enable trucks from the upper level to exit onto the Major Deegan Expressway, Department of Transportation spokesman Adam Levine said.
Drivers from New Jersey will bear the worst of it, Levine said, with traffic predicted to back up through the toll plaza on the George Washington Bridge to Hackensack on Interstate 80 and south to the New Jersey Turnpike.
"The worst affected is expected to be Interstate 80 heading east, the New Jersey Turnpike/I-95 heading north and parts of the Palisades Parkway closer to Fort Lee and Leonia," Levine said.
The department advises drivers to consider alternate routes and mass transit where they can, but Robert Sinclair Jr., of AAA New York said that could prove a challenge.
"There's really no going around it," Sinclair said Thursday. "Attack it mentally, put some latitude in your attitude and take it easy."
By the end of next year, when the entire project is to be completed, the Alexander Hamilton will have undergone a full rehabilitation, including wider shoulders to accommodate disabled vehicles.
Sinclair likened the fixes to unpleasant medicine necessary to treat a nasty condition.
"You might find it painful, but we're getting another 75 years of life for this bridge as a result," he said.
The project is the first rehabilitation for the Harlem River span since its construction by master builder Robert Moses in the early 1960s.