The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been seeking to reconstruct and widen the Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension (NB-HCE) from Turnpike Interchange 14 in Newark to Jersey Avenue in Jersey City.
Approximately 80 percent of the extension is carried on elevated structures and bridges constructed in the 1960s, which are nearing the end of their service life. The renovations, which are still in the planning phases, aim to address the old bridges that are part of the NB-HCE and is comprised of four projects.
The first part of the improvement plan calls for the replacement of bridges and widening of the roadway to provide three lanes and standard shoulders in each direction from Interchange 14 to 14A. Known as Project 1, the plans also call for the construction of a new Newark Bay Turnpike Extension Bridge over the body of water, which would require the acquisition of the former Marist High School property.
Project 2 would involve the of replacement bridges and widening the roadway to three lanes and standard shoulders in each direction from the Interchange 14A to in between 14B and 14C. Project 3 calls for the same from that area between 14B and 14C until the Columbus Drive Exit. Project 4 includes replacing the viaduct structure to maintain the current configuration of two lanes in each direction but providing standard shoulders from the Columbus Drive Exit to Jersey Avenue.
While the news that the bridge is being replace with a newer and wider one may be seen as a good thing to many Bayonne residents and commuters familiar with Turnpike traffic, others in the county are not as happy with the overall plan or the parts of it that would affect their corner of Hudson County. Jersey City officials, including Mayor Steven Fulop, and several Jersey City bike organizations have expressed opposition to the reconstruction, citing concerns the project would actually worsen traffic and air pollution.
In response, Bayonne officials have made clear their support for the project, at least the portion involving the new Newark Bay Bridge, with varying levels of enthusiasm.
Ashe-Nadrowski supports project, calls for leading voice
Bayonne City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is running for mayor, called for Bayonne to “lead the conversation” in a statement.
“As anyone who has commuted over the bridge knows that for the last 30 years we have had to deal with a roadway that is undersized,” stated Ashe- Nadrowski. “The constant traffic is only made worse by the “necessary repairs” which seem to be an annual challenge.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, there was a decades-old plan to construct a truck exit to be called “14X” which aimed to redirect truck traffic from Bayonne roadways to Global Container Terminals and waterfront warehouses in Jersey City. However, that didn’t come to fruition and she fears the same for this project.
“Unfortunately that plan was blocked by forces outside of Bayonne and instead we have a redesigned 14A that did not help Bayonne residents that still sit in traffic with trucks,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “My fear is that those outside forces may be at work again and that we need to make sure that Bayonne does not get left out of the conversation.”
Over the past decade Jersey City has seen exponential redevelopment which has added traffic to the Turnpike extension bridge, according to Ashe-Nadrowski. This, in conjunction with the local redevelopment boom and new projects right off the Turnpike such as those at the former Marine Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY), make the project vital to Bayonne.
“Now that Bayonne has started developing MOTBY and has approved a UPS logistic center, the expansion of the bridge is even more pressing,” said Ashe-Nadrowski. “I understand the need to review the project’s community impact, but Bayonne needs to lead the conversation and have a voice in the process.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, Bayonne does not have the benefits of mass transit like other Hudson County communities and relies heavily on its bridges to access points west and south of the city. She has reached out to the New Jersey Turnpike, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Fulop to discuss the matter.
Davis favors the bridge replacement plan, too
While she is running for mayor against Mayor James Davis, it seems they are on the same page about supporting the bridge project for now, although Ashe-Nadrowski appears to be pushing for a more proactive approach. The move comes after city officials said they were unaware of the NJTA’s intentions regarding the former Marist High School.
When reached for comment, Davis spokesperson Phil Swibinski referred to previous comments from Davis on the matter. Last week, Davis indicated his support for the project, highlighting the growth in traffic in recent years.
“The existing Newark Bay Turnpike Extension Bridge is too narrow,” Davis said. “It was built to handle the much smaller traffic volume of the 1950s. Commuters complain that it is difficult to get into or out of Bayonne, because the bridge isn’t wide enough to handle 21st century traffic.”
According to Davis, when a lane is closed, traffic can come to a standstill for miles. A new bridge would help rectify the problem, he said.
“We support a new bridge that would have more lanes to handle current traffic volume,” Davis said.
However, he also encourages alternative methods of transportation: “At the same time, we support expanding Light Rail, ferry, and bus service. We definitely need to take advantage of technologies that would reduce air pollution. The Turnpike versus mass transit should not be an ‘either/or’ choice. There must be ‘both/and’ solutions.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.