The rehabilitation of the historic Pulaski Skyway was supposed to bring about a commuter nightmare. Thanks in large part to transportation technologies, that hasn’t happened.
Opened in 1932, the 3.5-mile bridge-like steel structure spans two rivers and connects Newark and my hometown, Jersey City. It carried 67,000 crossings per day in 2014. That is, until the state needed to close half of its lanes in order to complete badly needed renovations.
During the lead-up to this two-year project, transportation agencies and government organizations throughout the region collaborated closely on a plan to mitigate the traffic. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and communications technologies were at the center of the strategy.
When the lanes were closed last spring, variable messaging signs were placed at dozens of decision points to notify drivers of traffic conditions. Cameras and Bluetooth readers were used to help monitor and control traffic. An innovative managed lane system was used to safely open a road shoulder as a new traffic lane on a key alternate route, the New Jersey Turnpike Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension. Social media, smartphone apps, New Jersey’s 511 website and other digital tools were used to help drivers find alternate routes and other means of transportation.
The information got through to our commuters. We recently passed the halfway mark for the project, and thankfully, things have gone much better than predicted.
It was made possible through the cooperative efforts of the NJTPA, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and many others working on the project’s traffic mitigation plan. In all, 14 representatives of the public and private sectors, including the NJTPA, were recognized by the organization ITS New Jersey for their role in the year’s “Outstanding ITS Project,” the Operations Plan for Pulaski Skyway Rehabilitation.
This is a great example of how emerging technologies can be used to improve the performance of our existing infrastructure. It is a story that is in keeping with the technological progress being made throughout the transportation sector, as highlighted in this issue of InTransition.