Northway drivers, be prepared: Weekend closures for the next phase of the $29 million replacement of the decks on the Twin Bridges will begin Friday, April 5.
State leaders announced Tuesday that the southbound span of the heavily traveled Northway bridges will be closed weekends starting at 10 p.m. Friday, with all traffic being shifted to the northbound bridge. The arrangement will continue for the next seven weekends, with the bridges re-opening before commuter hours start each Monday morning.
As happened when the deck on the northbound bridge was replaced last fall, traffic delays are expected — though officials hope they won’t be as long as last fall.
“We think it will be a lot smoother this time,” said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani. “We learned some things from last time, and motorists will know more what to expect.”
The weekend closures are a way for the state to steer clear of weekday closures, to avoid further clogging the heavily congested morning and afternoon commuting hours. Some pre-construction work has been under way during night hours since January, and a delayed overnight re-opening caused problems with the morning commute one day last week.
Last fall, the weekend work led routinely to backups of 20 minutes or more, but officials hope new measures will reduce motorist waits.
Work on the bridges — known officially at the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Bridges, after a Revolutionary War hero — is scheduled to be finished before Memorial Day weekend, when vacationer traffic picks up significantly.
The spans across the Mohawk River between Halfmoon and Colonie are used by more than 100,000 vehicles per day, from mall-bound shoppers and workplace commuters to Adirondack vacationers and interstate truckers.
The high volume of traffic — and its variety — is why the work needs to be done, state officials said.
“The Northway is a critical link, not only for daily commuters, but also for the thousands of tourists that visit the Adirondacks and Saratoga County,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. “Interstate 87 is also a key connecting route for truck traffic to move products and goods to and from all points of New York state, as well as northern New England, the mid-Atlantic and our neighbors in Canada.”
In a traffic pattern that reverses what was done last fall, northbound traffic will be reduced to a single lane and will share the northbound bridge with southbound traffic.
During the work, two southbound lanes will be shifted onto the northbound span. Viggiani said having two southbound lanes should improve traffic flow over last fall, when there was only one lane open in each direction on weekends. In general, southbound traffic is heavier, especially at the end of weekends, he said.
On the southbound bridge, DOT will be using a movable concrete barrier to separate traffic, allowing for the second lane. Last fall, officials said the poor condition of the deck prevented using a barrier, so only one lane was kept flowing in each direction, with the middle lane left empty.
The barrier, known as a “zipper barrier,” is more portable than a conventional concrete barrier, Viggiani said.
Drivers will also be encouraged to use Route 9 as an alternate.
The state will get word about lane closures out to the public in a variety of ways. DOT will have 13 electronic message signs along the Northway between exits 6 and 15, along with an additional 13 message signs on other roads around the Capital Region.
There are also nine web-accessible traffic cameras between Northway exits 6 and 15, and six temporary traffic cameras along Route 9. Camera feeds will be available at the project website, www.dot.ny.gov/twinbridges, and through 511NY, the state’s phone and website travel information source.
In a new initiative, the department has established a Facebook page for construction updates at www.facebook.com/NorthwayTwinBridges.
An emergency tow truck will be stationed near the bridge to quickly clear any disabled vehicles. Last year, a tow truck was initially on standby, but was then pre-positioned near the bridge after incidents during the initial weekends of work.
The construction contractor remains Lane Construction Corp. of Cheshire, Conn., the company that did last fall’s work.
The project will end major work on the bridges, which started several years ago with the replacement of the steel cables and repainting. State officials estimate that the bridges, which opened in 1959, will not need major rehabilitation for another 40 years.