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Lead Engineer: GWB Traffic Nightmare Could Happen Again And Again

Govs. Cuomo, Christie, Despite Controlling Port Authority, Seem Disinterested

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Once, twice, three times — in a month.

There were epic traffic delays, yet again, Monday night, because of emergency repair work at the George Washington Bridge.

And then on Tuesday the head engineer at the bridge told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer that we haven’t seen the end of this.

The engineer admitted there’s nothing they can do to fix the ongoing problems.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is the agency responsible, but the governors of New York and New Jersey do have a say. There were calls on Tuesday for Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie to do something before it happens again.

The traffic backs-ups have been potentially life threatening. The emergency repairs to the GWB have caused massive rush hour gridlock in New York City three times in the last month, including Monday night.

However, CBS 2’s calls to the two men who control the Port Authority, which maintains the GWB, New York Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Christie, led nowhere – even after Port Authority chief engineer Peter Zipf told Kramer he couldn’t promise it won’t happen again.

Kramer: “Can you guarantee that between now and March, when you will finish this project, that there won’t be an emergency closure?”

Zipf: “I can’t guarantee it, but we’re doing everything in our power to prevent it.”

The problem for Zipf and chief structural engineer Bernard Yostpille is the that the emergency closures were unanticipated — events in the Port Authority’s $82 million repair of the upper road way, which is now 10 years past its “useful life.”

“We did not anticipate we’d have these cracks at all of these sections,” Zipf said.

The unanticipated cracks have occurred three times since Nov. 22. Lanes had to be closed for emergency work during the height of the evening rush hour, causing unimaginable delays. On Monday night, for example, the backups in New York City to the south went to Midtown and beyond on the West Side Highway and the northbound avenues. To the south the bumper-to-bumper traffic went into the Bronx and Westchester County.

And there’s another problem: The Port Authority has no alternate plan for diverting traffic for an emergency repair, including moveable barricades that would allow lane changes.

“We can’t move the median because it is part of the structure, so it’s not like in some of the tunnels where they can actually move the barriers for change to flow. We’re stuck here,” Zipf said. “It would be unsafe structurally. We can’t do it, and we can’t create a cattle chute where cars would be coming.”

Governors Cuomo and Christie do control the Port Authority, but both have refused to get involved, Kramer reported.

A Cuomo spokesman told Kramer to get her answers from the Port Authority. A Christie spokesman seemed surprised she was even asking the governor about a problem with the GWB. He wanted to know if she was called Gov. Cuomo, too.

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