The Jersey Journal
IN OUR OPINION
Replacing deadly Skyway is overdue
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The state Department of Transportation will spend the next several years drawing up design options to replace the Pulaski Skyway, an elevated roadway that many consider the most dangerous in the nation. Plans are to replace the 75-year-old structure - and it is long overdue.
Unfortunately, lives have been lost over the past several decades as motorists navigated this hazardous span connecting Jersey City and Newark. This roadway is known for its harrowing flaws that include: a scary fast lane where vehicles often exceed speed limits; no shoulders for any emergencies; poor visibility; serious sun glare; and exit and entrance ramps at several points that create dangerous traffic merges on the bridge.
Constructed at a cost of about $20 million, the Pulaski Skyway is a 3.5-mile bridge with two 550-foot spans that cross both the Hackensack and Passaic rivers. It opened in 1932.
The DOT expects to pay $10 million a year through 2010 for the Pulaski's maintenance and in 2011, the agency expects to budget $135 million for its replacement. Early cost projection for construction of a safer skyway is at $1 billion, but like everything else, one can expect the price tag to balloon as the years go by.
The latest fatal Skyway accident came on Jan. 23, when authorities said off-duty Jersey City Police Officer Kevin Freibott, 39, was driving his Jeep Cherokee while intoxicated and rammed the back of a car that had just gotten onto the Skyway from an entrance ramp. A 2-year-old boy died from his injuries and his 37-year-old mother remains in critical condition.
Many of Hudson County's roads and bridges are a danger to its residents and anyone driving through the county. This is why the state is replacing another major death trap, an aging H. Otto Wittpenn Bridge that spans Jersey City and Kearny, located alongside the Pulaski Skyway.
The Wittpenn complements the Pulaski Skyway as a corridor of death. Earlier last month, a 35-year-old man was the latest killed on the outdated Wittpenn when he drove into oncoming traffic to pass a truck and lost control of his vehicle. In 2000, four former Dickinson High School students died when their car apparently veered into an oncoming tractor trailer on the approach to the smaller bridge in Jersey City. In the 1980s, four nuns died on the bridge in a fiery crash.
The quicker the state acts on these two projects, the more lives will likely be saved.