JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Major gridlock is about to grip northern New Jersey as the Manhattan-bound lanes of the Pulaski Skyway close this weekend for a two-year bridge deck rehabilitation project.

As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, commuters have been advised to use mass transit or plan an alternative route as the project gets under way.

The skyway is scheduled to shut down just after midnight Saturday as part of a 24-month, $1 billion project to repair the 81-year-old span.

The Pulaski Skyway gives about 40,000 northbound drivers a direct link from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Holland Tunnel and New York City daily. Now, those drivers will have to find another way.

EXTRA: Guide To Navigating Northbound Pulaski Skyway Shutdown

“It’s needed repairs for three or four decades. When you go underneath it, it’s corroded and it’s just a matter of time until a major disaster happens,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

“It’s going to cause major traffic delays, major traffic issues,” said New Brunswick resident Ashish Singh.

Jersey City will be at the heart of the traffic nightmare since the skyway passes directly overhead.

Officials are preparing for traffic overload. Mayor Fulop even declared a state of emergency.

“We’ll have 55 additional police officers on duty, pulling traffic through intersections. We’ll have mechanized traffic lights,” Fulop said.

For the next two years other roadways will have to bear the burden of the road closure, including the Turnpike extension, I-78, and Route 9.

“It’s been years they’ve been patching it up, so it’s time,” said Newark resident Kenyatta Johnson.

Johnson, who drives into New York daily, said he’s dreading years of gridlock.

“That is a absolutely long time, I figure with all the technology and all the equipment we have today I wouldn’t fathom it would take two years,” he said.

“It’s going to be crazy, just crazy,” one driver told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.

“It’s going to really force people to use public transportation,” Jersey City resident Michelle Mulle said.

Public transportation is exactly what New Jersey officials are urging residents to utilize.

“We’re telling people mass transportation, car pools, park and rides, trains, buses. Do what you can to avoid the traffic flow until the new normal sets in,” Fulop said.

Engineers say the bridge is a decrepit, crumbling structure. New Jersey Transportation Commissioner James Simpson told 1010 WINS Friday morning that very little work has been done to the bridge over its lifetime.

Listen To The Full Interview With NJ DOT Commissioner James Simpson Below:

“This just had to be done,” he said. “It hasn’t had much work done to it, it’s the original deck and the deck is really in poor shape and the bridge is in not great shape.”

He said alternate routes are available for drivers, but said “it’s not going to be an easy ride” and is urging drivers to give themselves extra time.

Simpson also said the best option for most commuters will be mass transit.

“Those roadways are all congested in the best of times, so cars are going to be difficult,” he said. “All of our mass transit lines, our rail lines have been beefed up. We’ve got a special park-and-ride into Newark with a bus that will take you into Jersey City.”

LINKS: Skyway Rehab Twitter | Pulaski Skyway Travel Times | Pulaski Skyway Maps | Traffic & Transit

Stevens Institute of Technology Associate Professor Dr. Jose Ramirez-Marquez set up a simulated model of how traffic may be impacted on the alternate routes. Models showed delays of 20 minutes to more than an hour, depending on the time of day.

“There’s going to be a lot of traffic at the beginning,” Ramirez-Marquez told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

He said the first few days or month into the detours will be the worst until drivers figure out their best way to go.

Engineering management PhD candidate Dante Gama said it’s impossible to predict the best route beforehand.

“It depends on the origin and destination of people,” he told Putney. “My advice overall would be patience, particularly at the beginning.”

The southbound lanes of the Pulaski Skyway will remain open during the renovation.

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