“This will have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” said Andrew Vischio, director of Traffic and Transportation for Jersey City, during a public review of the plans on Feb. 20.
While city officials said the bridge won’t reduce the volume of traffic using Liberty State Park as a short cut to avoid backups on the Turnpike Extension, it will create a more direct route through downtown and increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Currently, traffic using the park must turn left west off Phillip Street and take Johnston Avenue, cross the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line near the Liberty State Park Station, and turn onto Pacific Avenue to reach Grand Street.
Residents living on side streets along Grand Street have often complained about cars turning off Grand onto relatively quiet residential streets.
The new bridge would eliminate this wide zig-zag and allow traffic to go straight past Audrey Zapp Drive over the new bridge and onto Jersey Avenue, a direct route through downtown to the Holland Tunnel area, officials said.
The stop sign at Phillip and Zapp would be replaced with a traffic signal that would help regulate the volume of traffic.
The $13 million project, which is being funded by the Turnpike and the city, would also modify the existing intersection of Grand and Pacific to reduce turn lanes and construct new sidewalks and additional bike lanes. The two lanes that currently turn onto Grand from Pacific will be reduced to one.
City officials said this will fit in well with possible reconfiguration of Grand Street – considered one of the most dangerous streets in the city – which will likely get City Council approval later this year.
“This will have a positive impact on the neighborhood.” – Andrew Vischio.
The new Jersey Avenue Bridge will open up Jersey Avenue – which is currently a dead end street – to pass through traffic for the first time. The project will leave the existing footbridge, but will include additional bike lanes and sidewalks.
The bridge will also have a positive impact on the Bergen Lafayette section of the city where traffic must divert currently from Liberty State Park, Vischio said.
The new Jersey Avenue bridge, however, will not reduce the overall traffic flowing downtown, but may keep traffic from increasing, and will provide a more direct and safe route for cars to take.
Truck traffic – which is an issue in the area now – will be required to remain on the Turnpike Extension and exit at Columbus Avenue instead.
Vischio said an estimated 1,300 vehicles pass through the Grand Street area each rush hour at a rate about 415 cars per hour. About 28 percent of these turn down Marin Boulevard, a bottle neck that often causes backups. This is also an intersection where students from St. Peter’s Prep cross as well as commuters exiting the Marin Boulevard Light Rail station.
Once the Jersey Avenue Bridge is in place, most cars will travel north via Jersey Avenue, relieving congestion at Marin.
The changes, Vischio said, will not likely reduce travel time for those taking the short cut through the park.
But he predicted downtown will likely see a reduction in a traffic once work on the Pulaski Skyway is completed.
“Cars will be encouraged to remain on the Pulaski Skyway rather than exit into local streets,” he said.
The Pulaski Skyway dumps traffic onto the Route 139 approach to the Holland Tunnel.
The Turnpike Authority is paying $10 million towards the project with the city picking up a $3 million.
The project is 99 percent finalized, and will likely go out to bid shortly. The Turnpike Authority is currently negotiating with a property owner for a portion of the land.
“The project will take one and half to two years to complete,” he said.
Residents in the area, however, have raised some concern about the impact of traffic along that section of Jersey Avenue, the site of the Jersey Avenue Light Rail Station. It is an area popular among bicycle riders who cross over the existing pedestrian bridge into Liberty State Park.
The other concern is the possible impact of the increased traffic on emergency services provided by the Jersey City Medical Center which is also located there.
Vischio said the bridge will not have a negative impact on existing emergency services, but may well have a positive impact on southern Jersey City. Emergency vehicles from Greenville and Port Liberte will now have a direct route to the hospital, he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.