Holland Tunnel repairs will keep one tube open

The entrance to the Holland Tunnel at Watts and Varick Sts. Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | West Siders can expect a partial closure of the Holland Tunnel six nights a week for four years beginning in 2020.

One tube at a time will be closed overnight all nights except Saturday, starting with the eastbound tunnel for two years, followed by the westbound tunnel beginning in 2022.

“We suffered extensive damages to our systems and structures at the Holland Tunnel,” Louis Post, the project manager on the Port Authority’s Holland Tunnel repairs project, told Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation committee on Thurs., Oct. 4.

The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were damaged, along with tiles, walls, roadways and the concrete parts of the tunnel structure itself, he added.

Hurricane Sandy flooded the tunnel with 30 million gallons of saltwater in 2012. Since then, the Port Authority has been busy trying to convince the federal government to help fund the repairs, which is partly why the Port Authority is still in the design phase of the project some six years after the storm swamped Downtown Manhattan.

The repairs were originally estimated at $52 million. But the cost has ballooned to more than $364 million due to added plans for resiliency upgrades and plans to keep the tunnel open during the daytime, according to Port Authority representative at the C.B. 2 meeting.

The $364 million project is necessary both to repair extensive saltwater damage and make the tunnel more resilient against future storms, according to the authority. Around 84 percent of the cost will be reimbursed by the feds.

The New York-bound tube will be repaired first, from 2020 to the end of 2021. It will be closed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. weekends.

For New Jersey-bound tube closures from 2022 to the end of 2023, the tube will be closed 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. weekdays and midnight to 9 a.m. weekends.

Around 83 percent of the Holland Tunnel’s traffic is expected to be diverted to the Lincoln Tunnel, according to the Port Authority, with another 12 percent expected to use the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and 6 percent the George Washington Bridge.

Though final designs are still in the works, the authority plans to add flood protections at the tunnel’s entrances; repair various structural parts of the tunnel; and remove salt residue from the pavement, signs and doors. The plan also includes replacing cables, duct banks, fire-safety systems, communications systems, lighting and elevator components.

The Port Authority touted the projects’ economic benefits, including $260 million in wages and $640 million in economic activity. The project is expected to create 4,000 total “job years,” which is a way of calculating construction jobs, which are temporary.

One committee member asked if the one tube that is open could be reconfigured as a two-way roadway while the other one is being repaired, but Post said with nearly century-old, 10-foot-wide lanes, a two-way road would not be safe.

Since the plan is preliminary, details about where the construction staging area would be and more specifics on how traffic would be diverted have yet to be determined, authority officials said.

A top concern for the two dozen people at the meeting was how the already congested surrounding neighborhood would be impacted by added traffic from the partial closure — particularly during the possible six-month overlap with the expected L train shutdown in the first half of 2020.

“I really think it’s imperative that warning signs be put up from the Williamsburg Bridge all the way to the entry of the Holland Tunnel,” said Lora Tenenbaum, a longtime Soho resident and former C.B. 2 member. That way, she said, “people get choices and alternate routes to go.

“It’s kind of the problem that we’ve been thinking a lot about with the L train shutdown,” she said, “because the same area is being impacted severely by that.”

Under the M.T.A. and Department of Transportation’s L train shutdown mitigation plan, more than 80 buses per hour would enter Manhattan over the bridge, with the bridge also limited to HOV-3 vehicles from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The four bus routes would then run through the Downtown area to connect with local subway stations. The Port Authority said they plan to meet with the M.T.A. about the plan.

The committee will vote this month on a resolution stating recommendations and concerns about the tunnel project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *