HUDSON COUNTY – The Assembly Transportation Committee got an earful of complaints from Hudson County public officials Thursday morning who said the planned two-year closure of the northbound lanes on the Pulaski Skyway will wreak havoc on local streets in Jersey City, Hoboken, Kearny, and other municipalities and could have significant negative repercussions for businesses along the waterfront.
Beginning in March 2014, the 81-year old bridge, which handles 64,000 to 70,000 crossings a day, will undergo a major renovation to its northbound roadway surface. Some of the structure’s steel foundation will also be repaired.
But several local public officials – including Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, and members of the Jersey City Council – say they were stunned when they learned last month that the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s renovation plans for the Pulaski involved the closure of the bridge’s two northbound lanes. While some of them have since expressed support for the DOT’s plans, they still argue that more needs to be done to prevent a two-year traffic nightmare on local streets.
They also insisted the state do more to get input from local residents and officials regarding what the closure of the Pulaski will mean for their communities. Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D-Hoboken), who is a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and Ward E Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop pushed to get a public hearing held in Hudson County on the matter.
“We agree with the state. It must be done now,” Healy told the Committee on Thursday. But, he added, “We’re going to need some assistance. We should use this crisis to think out of the box.”
Healy said the state needs to explore more ways to expand and improve mass transit options, like the underutilized Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus, and must improve local streets that are likely to see more usage during the Pulaski closure.
Fulop, who also testified at the hearing, however said he would prefer to see other renovation options explored that perhaps close the Skyway for a longer period of time, but have less of an impact on Jersey City.
DeGise also testified before the committee.
Ramos and fellow committee member Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City) said the state must also be prepared to compensate municipalities for the added burden to their local police personnel.
For more information regarding the hearing, see this weekend’s edition of the Jersey City Reporter. – E. Assata Wright