Monday, April 21, 2014

Pulaski Skyway closed for rehab

After years of prep work New Jersey’s Pulaski Skyway is closed for 2 years for major rehab work, costing upwards of $1 billion.  Having been in at the beginning of this project I’m happy to see it move forward, though it’s a complicated story.  After spending that $1 billion (and actually a lot more than that, when you add in all the extraordinary maintenance costs over the past several years) we will have a 3 ½-mile long structure connecting Newark with the Holland Tunnel, but not located where you would put it today – and since it traverses miles of wetlands it would be problematic to build it at all today.  In fact, if you were given $1 billion and told you could spend it anywhere in New Jersey to improve mobility, you probably wouldn’t spend it here. 
The Pulaski Skyway is a piece of legacy infrastructure that’s too important not to save, too expensive to tear down, doesn’t generate enough traffic to impose tolls, and can’t handle trucks. 

Are there lessons to be drawn from the Pulaski Skyway project?  I would say two:  First, we have some major pieces of legacy transportation infrastructure that are going to require some tough decision making over the next several years.  Second, don’t try to draw too many lessons from big pieces that have so many unique features.

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