Carmegeddon. Nightmare on Local Streets. The Rush Hour Massacre. Whatever horror movie name you use to describe the recent closure of parts of Route 495 in North Hudson, one thing is clear: it’s guaranteed to bring headaches to commuters for the foreseeable future.
Through the summer of 2021, drivers will contend with a closed, westbound entrance ramp at 31st Street and John F. Kennedy Blvd, and one closed lane in both directions, all day, every day. (The ramp will be open to NJ Transit buses during weekday morning rush hour.) It’s meant to allow the state DOT to perform critical repair work on the dilapidated Route 495 bridge, which runs above Routes 1/9 and a park-and-ride.
Since 495 runs between Route 3 and the Lincoln Tunnel – through North Bergen, Union City, and Weehawken, and near Secaucus — those municipalities will see significant traffic challenges.
Mayors in those towns have been closely communicating with one another and the DOT, well in advance of the closures.
Each has designated extra police detail to key intersections during rush hours (the DOT has agreed to cover each town for the added costs), along with other efforts.
Secaucus is already seeing an increase in traffic. Paterson Plank Road, which cuts through Secaucus’ center, is now a detour for the 31st Street entrance ramp. And some drivers heading to New York on Route 3 and the NJ Turnpike also use it.
Secaucus has identified six key intersections on Paterson Plank that might feel significant impact from the closures.
They include Paterson and Park Plaza Drive, located near a Route 3 entrance ramp; Paterson and Harmon Meadow Blvd, situated by a NJ Turnpike exit; Paterson Plank and Cedar Lane, by a Route 3 exit ramp; Paterson Plank and County Avenue, by Town Hall; Paterson and Roosevelt Ave; and Paterson and Plaza Center, right by the town’s central shopping space. The latter two intersections are near entrance and exit ramps for Route 3.
When that highway backs up, drivers often exit and use Paterson as an alternative route, which the 495 shutdown is likely to exacerbate.
More officers will be situated by the areas, but that’s subject to change.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Town Administrator Gary Jeffas said.
At a recent public meeting about the closures, one resident referenced a town shuttle that currently runs among the Secaucus Junction, NJ Transit station, and points north (not to be confused with a similar shuttle that runs between the xChange development, CVS, and Walmart). The person asked if a second one with the same route could come online.
Instead, however, officials will provide a free shuttle between a parking lot off Paul Amico Way, near the new High Tech High School campus, and Secaucus Junction during morning and evening rush hours.
The morning shuttle will run from 6:40 to 8:40 a.m and the evening shuttle will run from 4:40 to 6:40 p.m. It will operate every 20 minutes, and is only for Secaucus residents. Secaucus will monitor the lot’s usage for the first month to see if it should continue. Contact the town at 201-330-2000 for more information.
“We’ve been telling everybody [about the closures].” – Richard Turner
North Bergen and Union City
North Bergen has launched a social media campaign on its Facebook and Twitter pages, educating residents on the closures. They’ve also sent out robocalls townwide to educate them, and to direct them to DOT sites so they can understand why the work is being done.
“We want to make the residents aware that it’s a state job, not a local job,” Town Administrator Chris Pianese said.
Local police have come up with eight crucial intersections that will receive extra police detail during the shutdown. They include Union Turnpike at Liberty Avenue; Paterson Plank Road at Bergen Turnpike; JFK Boulevard at 30th, 31st, and, 32nd streets and Bergen Turnpike; Paterson Plank Road and Columbia Avenue; and the 31st Street entrance ramp. Drivers sometimes use Union and Bergen turnpikes as a shortcut to Routes 3 and 1/9 when 495 backs up.
Union City and North Bergen police will work together on the detail. Union City has sent a citywide letter to residents about the closures, according to town spokeswoman Erin Knoedler.
If there’s any town on 495 that will feel the brunt from its closures, Weehawken is a top contender. As home to the Lincoln Tunnel opening, the township already deals with heavy traffic on the side streets around 495, such as Pleasant and Park Avenues.
Officials have identified eight intersections for extra police attention. They include 19th Street at Park and Willow avenues, near the Weehawken/Hoboken border, just south of the Lincoln Tunnel; the North and South Marginals at Boulevard East, under the 495 helix; Highwood Terrace at Boulevard East and Park avenues; and Pleasant Avenue at Hackensack Plank Road and Park Avenue.
“We’ve been telling everybody [about the closures]; we’ve been advertising all over, we sent out an email blast and used social media,” Mayor Richard Turner said.
He added that after Labor Day, when school reopens and vacations end, “we expect all hell to break loose.”
The Township Council declared a limited state of emergency for traffic control purposes at their Aug. 15 meeting. It gives the town’s OEM the authority to close select roads to non-essential traffic, if they become gridlocked.
That means that out-of-towners may see more detours during busy times. The resolution also doubles hours for the town’s part time officers from 20 to 40 weekly, so they can better monitor the intersections.
What can you do?
If possible, use public transit options such as PATH, ferries, or bus service—as 495’s exclusive bus lane won’t be shuttered from the work.
You can also avoid the Lincoln Tunnel area to get into New York, and try the George Washington Bridge or Holland Tunnel instead.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org