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Traffic surprisingly smooth in the Bronx

Orange barrels separate driving lanes as traffic will

Orange barrels separate driving lanes as traffic will be rerouted and diverted the next six months during construction on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, squeezing two lanes of the Cross Bronx into one going eastbound. (July 15, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Carmageddon it was not.

With the start of a major phase of the repair job on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in the Bronx coinciding with a Yankees home game Sunday, authorities had warned that an already congested stretch of Interstate 95 could get much worse, with traffic backing up deep into New Jersey.

Those fears went mostly unrealized, with the exception of two accidents on the George Washington Bridge in the afternoon that delayed eastbound traffic 30 to 45 minutes, according to New York State Department of Transportation spokesman Adam Levine.

But there's no reason to think the rest of the six-month project will go so smoothly, experts warned Sunday afternoon. "The big crush won't come until we get the first rush hour," said Robert Sinclair Jr. of AAA New York.

Then, he said, commuter traffic will mingle with some of the heaviest truck traffic in the nation.

He had to reach back to the 1960s construction of the Bruckner Interchange to find a project with as much potential to disrupt traffic in the metropolitan area.

Levine said he expected commuter traffic to remain heavy during the project's early days. "It's human nature -- people are going to see if it's fine, then make a change later," he said.

He recommends people use mass transit when possible and consider alternate routes into New York City such as the Tappan Zee Bridge to the north, the tunnels into Manhattan, even the Goethals or Bayonne bridges to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Sinclair warned that some of those detours could wind up costing even more time.

A Long Island-bound driver coming from the south, for instance, would have to cut through Staten Island to take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the Long Island Expressway.

"None of those roads are a picnic themselves," he said.

It wasn't immediately known if Sunday's accidents had anything to do with the work on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which spans the Harlem River in the Bronx.

The bridge, which carries about 188,000 vehicles a day including much of the truck traffic to Queens, Long Island and points north along the Eastern Seaboard, is getting its first major renovation since it was built in 1963.

A survey of drivers with New Jersey plates parking in the lots off River Avenue near Yankee Stadium before Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Angels confirmed that the first day had gone well: "We stopped once for maybe two seconds," said Mike Smith, 43, a construction worker from Freehold.

"Same as any other day," said Aaron Hensz, 24, a bartender from North Haledon.

Matt Mongelli, 45, a supervisor at Diamond Parking, said his own drive over from West Orange, N.J., Sunday morning had gone fine, but that he'd already fielded phone calls from a few worried regulars about alternate routes to the stadium.

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