Kerry Clines

The 85-year-old George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, is getting some much-needed major renovations to keep it alive into the next century. reports that officials are planning an intricate construction schedule involving 11 projects as part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s nearly $2 billion “Restore the George” program, which would repair and rebuild key components of the bridge and its approach roads.

“We want this to last for another 80-90 years,” Robert Carleton, engineer and senior program manager, tells the news agency.

Approximately 300,000 vehicles move across the George Washington Bridge every day, making it the nation’s busiest crossing, so protecting rush hour traffic from construction delays is a top priority.

“We’re balancing the reality of having a huge amount of capital projects and making sure we protect the rush hour, Cedric Fulton, director of bridges, tunnels and terminals, tells the news agency. “We focus on construction during the overnight, (primarily) from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., only 7 percent of our traffic moves during that time.” He adds that, if warranted, worst case scenario might have construction begin a 9 p.m.

Another option would be to close lanes for 10 to 14 hours overnight on weekends. Typically, the bridge has 17 “extended” 14-hour weekend closures each year, but Restore the George projects will require 50 such closures, Fulton tells the news agency, adding that “people will notice the extended weekends.”

Work on the bridge began with lead-paint removal on the lower level in early 2015 and continued this year with repaving the eastbound lower level and its approach roads, which is scheduled to end in early 2017. The most significant project is the $1.03 billion replacement of 592 vertical cables, or suspender ropes, which are the original cables that support the bridge deck over the river.

“The suspender ropes lasted 85 years,” Fulton tells the news agency. “The only other bridge (with cables) that lasted that long was the Brooklyn Bridge.” He adds that they will rehabilitate the 26,474 wires in each of the two main support cables that hold up the suspender ropes. That project is expected to begin in 2017 and continue until 2024. The cables will also get new lighting similar to what’s on the Empire State Building.

In June or July 2016, drivers accessing the bridge from the Palisades Interstate Parkway will experience delays when a $117 million project to replace the helix starts because lanes will be closed when crews are working over active roadways, Carleton tells the news agency. The helix is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

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