A company that provides traffic information, directions and other services for drivers released an analysis Friday of traffic patterns during the first week of major construction on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and the resulting impact on traffic at the George Washington Bridge.
The analysis conducted by INRIX revealed that drivers took what the company called a “wait-and-see approach,” initially avoiding the bridge altogether, apparently heeding the many warnings by authorities and reported in the media, and adjusting their routes early last week.
But by Friday of the first week of the roughly three-month project, drivers were using the bridge again, and that trend is likely to continue, according to INRIX.
Officials that the project, which is scheduled to last until October, would impact millions of people who travel east over the GWB because of the closure of a lane on the Cross Bronx Expressway’s Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which spans the Harlem River and connects Manhattan to the Bronx.
Traffic from both levels of the GWB merge onto one roadway, and several significant roadways feed into and out of the span, including the Harlem River Drive and Major Deegan Expressway.
Early last week Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said by the lack of traffic at the GWB that things could get “progressively worse,” saying Fort Lee residents should avoid the bridge if at all possible, that it would take days or even weeks before a clearer picture of the full local impact emerged and that local officials were prepared to shut down Fort Lee roads if necessary.
The INRIX study showed that during morning commutes, the NYC-bound routes most affected in the first week of the project were the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.
“During normal congestion, it takes traffic around 20 minutes to cross the [the tunnels],” said INRIX Traffic Analyst Cat Kobylinski. “Between Monday and Thursday of the first week, however, congestion tripled, taking almost one hour to use the Lincoln Tunnel.”
Kobylinski added that during the same period, delays at the Holland Tunnel were more than twice as long as they usually are, taking about 45 minutes with backups of up to three miles.
But by last Friday, the company noted, congestion at the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels was “routine.”
“It seems that because Monday to Thursday morning traffic coped well, drivers chose Friday to try out the GW Bridge,” Kobylinski said. “Unfortunately, several accidents on major routes, including the Deegan and Cross Bronx Expressways, meant drivers got caught up in major delays.”
INRIX also observed that drivers were “starting to return to their usual habits” this week, and said that while traffic was lighter at the two tunnels, with average speeds of about 20 miles per hour—up seven mph from the previous week—traffic at the GWB had slowed to just 10 miles per hour with traffic backed up at times as much as five miles and delays of about 40 minutes.
The INRIX analysis predicts that most drivers will continue to return to their normal driving routines, meaning more congestion at the GWB as the summer progresses.
Sokolich reached similar conclusions Friday, and reiterated that while Fort Lee residents are “combat-ready commuters,” they should still consider alternate routes or methods of getting to New York City.
“You can see the volume is getting a little more each and every day, and I think it’s going to creep back up to just under intolerable levels again,” he said. “I’m not out there with a meter of some sort, but you can just tell by virtue of the levels of congestion that you see. You’re starting to see it earlier, and you’re starting to see it denser.”