It’s the second weekend of the Twin Bridges deck replacement project, with long delays again expected on the Northway and even alternative routes.
But state Department of Transportation officials believe they will avoid a repeat of last Monday, when safety concerns arose as the first weekend of construction wrapped up, leading to unanticipated closures through the morning rush hour.
“I have a very high degree of confidence those issues will not be encountered again,” said Sam Zhou, DOT’s Region One director.
The $29 million project is closing the northbound bridge over the Mohawk River from 10 p.m. Fridays to 5 a.m. Mondays for the next six weekends, with the exception of the Columbus Day holiday weekend. Lane reductions ahead of the full closing start at 8 p.m.
The work is being done on weekends to avoid disrupting the normally heavy weekday traffic.
DOT on Friday afternoon issued a fresh advisory encouraging people to use other routes.
“Motorists should expect significant delays on the Northway in both directions, especially from mid-morning through the late afternoon on Saturday and Sunday,” the advisory stated. “Travelers are strongly encouraged to consider using alternate routes to cross the Mohawk River during these time periods.”
During the closures, northbound traffic is being diverted to a single lane on the southbound bridge, while southbound traffic is also reduced from the normal three lanes to a single lane,
Officials anticipated the arrangement would cause major delays, and last weekend — the first weekend of work — proved them right.
People who stayed on the Northway experienced backups of 20 minutes or more. The suggested alternates also became congested — particularly Route 9 from the Northway Exit 9 area down to the Crescent Bridge, the next-closest river crossing to the Twin Bridges.
To help manage traffic, Zhou said DOT has decided to put all messages on electronic message signs under DOT’s control, regardless of whether DOT or a contractor owns the sign. Last weekend, some signs had inaccurate messages, he said.
Also, DOT HELP patrol vehicles and tow trucks will be staged in the Route 9 area to quickly respond to any incidents. A jackknifed 18-wheeler and an accident on Route 9 in Colonie contributed to last weekend’s problems, as did a storm-related power outage that knocked out traffic lights on Route 9.
Then there was the unexpected problem Monday morning, which led to huge traffic snarls and made numerous commuters late for work. After workers installed temporary steel plates over gaps between the new and old deck sections so traffic could flow again, they realized connecting bolts weren’t secure. The northbound bridge was closed again and remained partially or completely closed until early afternoon.
Zhou said there were internal DOT meetings and meetings with the contractor this week, and he’s confident the problem won’t recur.
He said 16 new deck panels were installed last weekend. “The operation of installing the deck panels went very well,” he said.
The work on the twin arches, formally known as the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, involves replacing the original 1959 concrete deck and some of the steel supports underneath them.
Officials have said closing the bridge for an entire weekend allows them to get more work done than would a series of overnight closures.
“We recognize the inconvenience this bridge work creates for the traveling public and ask for continued patience as we work to construct a new, safer bridge deck,” the DOT statement Friday concluded.
The Twin Bridges carry an average of 110,000 vehicles a day on weekdays between Saratoga and Albany counties. Weekend traffic is somewhat less.
Real-time traffic information is available to the public on the www.511NY.org website or by calling 511. Zhou said the alternate routes will be more clearly highlighted this weekend on the 511NY website.
The weekend closure pattern will be repeated in the spring, when the same kind of deck replacement will be done on the southbound bridge. That work is planned to be finished by Memorial Day, when summer traffic picks up.