The world's busiest vehicular bridge, connecting Fort Lee, New Jersey and Washington Heights in Manhattan, is due for a big renovation.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey greenlighted $15 million Thursday to begin replacing 592 vertical suspender ropes on the George Washington Bridge. The ropes connect the roadway to the gigantic suspension cables above. The entire project will take 8 years and cost $1 billion.
Each one of the vertical suspender ropes is made up of 283 wires and can weigh up to 10,000 pounds. The current wires are the originals from when the bridge was built 80 years ago. The normal lifespan of such wiring is 70 years.
Officials say the time to act is now.
Agency officials emphasized that the bridge was in no danger of collapsing because of the suspender deterioration. But they added that after spending $4.5 million over two years studying what repairs were necessary, it became clear that it was prudent to replace the ropes now. Waiting until there is a safety issue would require emergency repairs that would no doubt create what no driver on the George Washington Bridge wants: more traffic jams.
The complicated and tedious process, modeled after what San Francisco did with its revamp of the Golden Gate Bridge, will consist of replacing three of the suspender ropes at any given time--any more and the bridge would become destabilized-- allowing the renovation to take place without closing the bridge off to cars.
Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye told NBC New York the construction will also create thousands of jobs in New York and New Jersey. "We're gonna need lots of construction workers from both states, to refurbish the bridge, so it's very exciting in terms of job creation,' he said
Of course, the bill for the massive project will be footed by higher tolls on the bridge, and traffic will likely be worse due to the construction. .