Fort Lee Mayor's GWB Traffic Warning
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said that while traffic wasn’t as bad many had predicted Monday, there’s still tomorrow to worry about, not to mention the coming months, and that he’s prepared to shut down local roads if necessary.
Editor's note: Having heard from so many concerned residents who commute into the city, I am sharing this message from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich regarding GWB traffic during construction.
Traffic at the George Washington Bridge was not nearly the nightmare many had feared it would be—at least not on Monday morning, the first weekday morning since the New York State Department of Transportation started its three-month-long repair project at the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and resulting lane closures on the Cross Bronx Expressway.
But Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said that while things were “business as usual” Monday and Fort Lee officials were in a “wait and see” mode, he also warned residents not to have a “false sense of security.”
“It wasn’t that bad this morning,” Sokolich told Patch. “But I think that in order to properly assess this issue, you need to look back over the next week to 10 days and make a determination as to what your policies are going to be.”
Sokolich said it was likely that people, heeding the many warnings that preceded Monday morning’s commute, simply “made other arrangements,” doing such things as taking other Hudson River crossings or using mass transit. But he also said he’s concerned about what happens for the rest of the week, not to mention the coming months, and that he and Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli are prepared to act if the situation calls for it.
“I was driving around town with the chief this morning at 5 a.m., and we both reached the conclusion that if response times start to be adversely affected, we’re going to close down all the local roads,” Sokolich said, adding, “as best we can.”
In a NorthJersey.com video, Sokolich, speaking against the backdrop of the GWB Monday morning, said of the traffic situation, “It's supposed to get progressively worse.”
“So we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Sokolich also said in the interview that he was particularly concerned about what happens when school starts in September, calling that “a very big concern.”
“Even on an uneventful traffic day, it takes half-an-hour to 45 minutes to get from one end of town to the other to get kids [to Fort Lee High School],” he said.
NJ.com reported that at about 6 a.m. Monday, northbound I-95 traffic and eastbound I-80 traffic heading toward the bridge was moving along well, with only a brief increase in volume near the tollbooths, which cleared by about 7 a.m. NJ.com went on to report that by 7:20 a.m. GWB drivers, along with other Hudson crossings, were experiencing only minimal, even “normal” delays.
Those delays were roughly five minutes during peak hours, but the rest of the morning was delay-free, The Journal News reported.
Longer delays were found at the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels according to that report, but the Tappan Zee Bridge, which many feared was going to see a significant uptick in traffic Monday as a result of the multitude of media reports and warnings prior to Monday’s commute, was also no more congested than on any other day.
One Patch reader called the situation Monday “much a-do about nothing,” while another countered that drivers probably “heeded the warning and now will flock back tomorrow.”
“I'd bet the rest of the week will be busy,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, at the Edgewater Ferry Landing at Route 5 and River Road, to which many Fort Lee residents take free Parking Authority shuttle buses on weekdays, the ferry company had to improvise, but only slightly, according to a NY Waterway spokesman.
“We had one extra boat out of Edgewater this morning; that’s all we needed,” said Pat Smith. “NY Waterway is a private business, not a government entity, so they can be very flexible, very nimble in adjusting schedules.”
Smith emphasized NY Waterway’s outreach via social media, which he said enables the company to “get to [customers] very quickly,” and said that, “when there’s an anticipation of added capacity, you can switch from a smaller boat to a larger boat or add another boat.”
The lane closure is on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which spans the Harlem River and connects Manhattan to the Bronx. The bridge has always been somewhat of a chokepoint, with traffic from both levels of the GWB merging onto one roadway and several other significant roadways feeding into and out of the span, including Harlem River Drive and the Major Deegan Expressway.
NJDOT officials and the Port Authority had been urging motorists all last week to take mass transit into New York if possible, consider alternate routes or travel during off-peak hours.
NJ Transit also issued an advisory last week saying that the project would also impact commuters who travel across the bridge by bus.
“Hopefully things don’t take a turn for the worse,” wrote another Path reader Monday after learning that “traffic wasn’t terrible.”