Lincoln Tunnel

Transportation Nation

Christie Gets to Whiz Thru the Lincoln Tunnel. And He Wants You to Know It.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Governor Christie gets to speed through traffic, and he wants you to know.  Earlier this week, Christie's press office sent out a clip of the Governor, joking with second graders.  Kind of the warm and accessible and funny image Christie's team likes to project.

Speaking Wednesday at a meeting in Montville,  an 8-year old named Audrey asked the Governor what his favorite thing to do is.  There's a "fun" answer to that, Christie said, and it's "going to New York City."  (There's a serious answer to, having to do with making people's lives better.  But back to our story.)

How do you get to NYC? the Governor asked Audrey.

The reply: "Usually I drive to the train station and then we use the train to get to the city."  But not Christie.  "Some people," he said, "in fact a lot of people -- don't take the train. When you're governor, they close the Lincoln Tunnel for you. And you get to drive right through! No traffic! It's the best!"

Wait a minute. The Lincoln Tunnel gets closed when the governor drives through it?

We at TN wondered about that practice, so we asked around.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the tunnel, would not answer questions about whether this is common practice for the governor -- or anyone else. Neither would they say how often they close the tunnels for this reason. "For the record," said a spokesman, "the Port Authority does not comment on security issues."

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Christie, said his office wouldn’t discuss security protocols that are determined by the Port Authority and the governor's executive protection unit.

But two sources familiar with the Port Authority cast doubt on that. "It would take an hour, at least, to close the tunnel," said one source.  "They probably just create some room for him to whisk through. "I’ve never heard of the Port Authority closing the Lincoln Tunnel for a governor before,” said another source.

This was echoed by Veronica Vanterpool, the head of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “I’ve never heard of the Lincoln Tunnel being closed for a governor," she said. "In fact, I can’t remember it being closed for anything other than a calamity.”

Vanterpool's group, and others, are still steaming about Christie's decision a few years back to halt construction of the ARC transit tunnel under the Hudson River.    That would have mean, planners have said, less traffic for everyone in the Lincoln Tunnel.



Christie:  Here's my favorite thing about being governor, on the fun side. Going to New York City. Let me tell you. Have you ever gone to New York City?

Audrey:  Yeah.

Governor: Okay. How did you get there?

Audrey:  Usually I drive to the train station and then we use the train to get to the city.

Governor:  Okay. Some people -- in fact a lot of people -- don't take the train. And a lot of people drive. And maybe when you're on the train and you see the people in all the traffic, trying to get to the Lincoln Tunnel? When you're governor, they close the Lincoln Tunnel for you. And you get to drive right through! No traffic! It's the best! I love going to New York now! I used to hate it because I'd sit in the traffic! Now, no traffic! I love it! That's the most fun thing, on the fun side, about being governor, is going to New York City. In fact, Mary Pat, who -- you know there's lots of things about this job that she doesn't like -- we were going into New York about three weeks ago, and they stopped the traffic. And you go all these odd ways and you go the wrong way on a one-way, it's just great. And all of a sudden there it is, there's the tube and it's completely open and you're flying through. She looked at me and she goes "this never gets old." It might be the major reason she wants me to get re-elected. I'm not sure.





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Transportation Nation

Pulaski Skyway to Close for Two Years; No New Rail Tunnel on Horizon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Pulaski Skyway (photo by Paul Lowry via flickr)

The Pulaski Skyway -- an 80-year old elevated highway that carries 67,000 cars a day in New Jersey -- will partially close for two years beginning in 2014.

The highway runs between Newark and Jersey City and serves as a major feeder for cars and buses accessing the Holland Tunnel into downtown Manhattan. It will shut down to traffic after the completion of the 2014 Super Bowl, being held in the nearby Meadowlands.

The NJ Department of Transportation says it needs that time to entirely replace the existing deck, upgrade ramps, paint and seismically retrofit the Pulaski, which is in "poor condition." The work will cost $1 billion.

While deck work is ongoing, northbound lanes will be closed entirely for two years. Two southbound travel lanes will remain open.

Speaking Thursday in Newark, the state's transportation commissioner, James Simpson, said the work amounts to "basically a new bridge in place." He acknowledged the disruption closing the roadway would cause, but said "we couldn't leave it in its existing state. The only decision was to reconstruct it in place."

The Pulaski is considered "functionally obsolete" because it no longer conforms to modern design standards, and in 2011 the Texas Transportation Institute rated it the sixth least reliable road in the country. (It also ranked #8 on Jalopnik's less scientific list of "the most terrifying roads in the world.") The state says the work will extend the life of the structure by at least 75 years.

The closure of the roadway will have a ripple effect. Drivers who head north to enter the city via the Lincoln Tunnel will find not only crowds, but delays from another massive rehabilitation project -- the Port Authority's ongoing upgrade of the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel known as the helix. Meanwhile, NJ Transit has reached maximum capacity and can't run additional trains into Penn Station. The PATH system is similarly burdened.

As Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow with the Regional Plan Association, puts it: "The automobile options are now worse for two years, and there's no relief in site from point of view of a new rail crossing."

Zupan is referring to the ARC project, an $8.7 billion trans-Hudson tunnel that, when completed, would have boosted rail capacity between New Jersey and New York. Construction on the new tunnel began in 2009 -- only to be cancelled in 2010 by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said the state couldn't afford it.

Christie is using the money set aside for the ARC tunnel to shore up roads and bridges in the state -- among them, the Pulaski Skyway.

Preliminary work is underway on a study for the next iteration of a new rail tunnel -- this one known as Gateway -- but shovels are nowhere near ready to turn dirt.

"You've really created a perfect storm of transportation chaos -- you haven't created a new transit option and you've made driving options worse," says Zupan.

Another view of the Pulaski, spanning the Passaic & Hackensack Rivers in Jersey City (CC via wikimedia commons)

The Skyway is named for General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish-born hero of the Revolutionary War. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. And it was also referenced in Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds. "The enemy now turns east," reads a line in the script, "crossing Passaic River into the Jersey marshes. Another straddles the Pulaski Skyway."

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Gov Wants to Borrow Billions To Fix Transpo Infrastructure, Transit Decifit Looms in San Francisco

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top stories on TN:

A NYC school bus strike is looming. (Link)

A transpo funding bill -- without high-speed rail -- gets the president's signature. (Link)

How one TN reporter learned to stop worrying and love a California freeway. (Link)

Lincoln Tunnel helix in 1955

Governor Christie wants the state legislature to okay borrowing billions to upgrade the state's transportation infrastructure. (The Record)

And: a year-long, $88-million overhaul of the Lincoln Tunnel's helix will close lanes and divert traffic onto local roads. (The Star-Ledger)

Will the head of San Francisco's transit agency and the city's new mayor collide over how to reduce MUNI's deficit? (Bay Citizen)

Women are at a greater risk of being injured in car accidents than men, according to a new report. (NY1)

DC has more license plate readers than anywhere else in the country -- and how it's using that information is spurring privacy concerns.  (Washington Post)

If it's illegal to use a cell phone while driving, it's illegal to use it while stopped at a red light. (New York Times)

Brooklyn's Prospect Park tries to slow bicyclists after two serious bike-pedestrian collisions. (New York Times)

NPR kicks off a series on CAFE standards with a look at electric cars -- and why people aren't buying them.

Philadelphia joins Chicago on the list of cities moving to open fare payment for transit systems. (Inquirer)

The world's cheapest car -- India's Tata Nano -- gets a makeover after disappointing sales. (BBC)

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Dozens Injured After Motorcycle, 3 Buses Crash in Lincoln Tunnel

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WITH PHOTOS. A rush hour collision involving a motorcycle and three buses has forced the partial closure of the Lincoln Tunnel, injuring dozens of commuters and shutting down two Manhattan-bound lanes.

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Transportation Nation

Can a Tunnel Under the Hudson Fix "The Great Traffic Ordeal?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey side approach, circa 1955

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)

"I don't think it is necessary for me to dwell upon the obvious significance the construction of this new tunnel has in helping us to keep abreast of the great traffic ordeal which surely represents one of the inexorable headaches of the City of New York....The benefits which will accrue upon the completion of this tunnel are, in my judgment, self-evident."

Think those words are about the ARC tunnel? Think again. That's the 101st mayor of New York City, Vincent Impellitteri, speaking on the WNYC airwaves on September 25, 1952, following the groundbreaking of the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel. You can listen to the audio below; Mayor Impellitteri begins speaking about four minutes and 30 seconds in.

1952 Lincoln Tunnel Groundbreaking, Part 1

1952 Lincoln Tunnel Groundbreaking Part 2

The tunnel cost just over $94 million to construct. When it opened five years later, the New York Times called it "the first post-war breakthrough of the New York-New Jersey traffic bottleneck."

Other speakers on this vintage 1952 broadcast—which took place from the roof of the Hotel Astor in Times Square—were: New York State Lieutenant Governor Frank C. Moore; New York City Mayor Impellitteri; Ransford J. Abbott, commissioner of the New Jersey State Highway Department; Paul L. Troast, chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and Harold W. McGraw, chairman of the West Side Association of Commerce. The master of ceremonies was Howard S. Cullman, chairman of the Port of New York Authority.

Thanks to assistant WNYC archivist Haley Richardson and the NYC Municipal Archives

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