NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Those who drive between New York and New Jersey may be wondering what’s going on with the construction on the Geoge Washington Bridge, including when it will be over.

We went to find out, getting the first media tour of the site since the pandemic hit.

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CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got an exclusive look.

When you drive across the George Washington Bridge, you may notice the views, the traffic, or the construction. Ken Tripaldi pays attention to it all, all of the time – he’s the man in charge of construction, and took DeAngelis on a tour.

“We’re making pretty good progress. All the suspender ropes are finished on the north side now. That was a big milestone to hit,” he said.

Which means half of the 592 suspender ropes have been replaced. Those are the steel ropes that drop from the main cables. The cables, which look like barrels, are getting a special system to protect from corrosion.

“These main cables are really the backbone of the bridge and we want to make sure that it can continue to support the traveling public for many years to come,” Tripaldi said.

That’s the goal of “Restoring the George,” a $1.9 billion program, helping the 90-year-old bridge last another lifetime.

“Once we complete all the work on the north side and are able to open up to pedestrian traffic including the public, then we’re going to move over the south side,” Tripaldi said.

“And when will that be?” DeAngelis asked.

“Summer of 2022,” he said.

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The overall program is made up of 11 projects, including improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This is just about the finished product. We have railings to put on, and lighting to install, right, but this is the new walkway,” Tripaldi said.

Say goodbye to stairs to get there. They’re being replaced with a new access ramp, making it ADA compliant.

Along the pedestrian walkway is a viewing platform so you can step out and take in the breathtaking view of the bridge.

We got a different perspective of construction in 2018, going all the way to the top. Now, half of the renovation is complete as work continued through the pandemic.

It’s also getting done without ever shutting down the bridge, which is why the Port Authority’s executive director says it takes a decade.

“When you think of this bridge as the world’s busiest bridge, and you have to renovate it, every piece of it… to do that while the vehicles are using the bridge is an enormous challenge,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of NY & NY. “It does take time because the time you can have construction underway is limited.”

“This bridge will be set for another 100 years,” Tripaldi said.

It’s a long road, but it’s all so this bridge can have an even longer life.

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The program is expected to be completed late 2025-early 2026, but it’s considered a “once in a generation or lifetime” project, meaning once it’s done, we won’t see this work again.

Jenna DeAngelis