Pulaski Skyway

Pulaski Skyway

The Pulaski Skyway carries US Routes 1 and 9 over the Passaic River and Hackensack River in Newark, Kearny, and Jersey City, New Jersey.


History

The opening of the Holland Tunnel in 1927, the first fixed roadway connection between New Jersey and New York, fueled a desire to construct a highway between the tunnel and Jersey City, Newark, and Elizabeth. In 1922, prior to its completion, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill authorizing the extension of US Route 1 from its end at Elizabeth through Newark and Jersey City to the tunnel site. 1 It was conceived as the nation’s first “super highway.” 2 3

State highway engineer Hugh L. Sloan appointed Fred Lavis, a consulting engineer who had worked on foreign railroads and the Panama Canal, to design the extension 2 while Sigvald Johannesson was hired to design the elevated Skyway. 4 31 It was desired to avoid open rock cuts at Bergen Hill and to add a ramp in Kearny to spur industrial development. 2

Construction of the extension began in mid-1925 on a combination of embankments and cuts and the new “super highway” opened on December 16, 1928. 5 Traffic was still required to use the Lincoln Highway to cross the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers on swing bridges that frequently stopped traffic to allow ships to pass. 2 6 7

Lavis’ design for the viaduct across the Meadlowlands included two vertical lift bridges 35 feet above the rivers, sufficient for the majority of ships to pass underneath. 2 Believing the task was complete, he resigned in 1928. In January 1929, the War Department objected to the continued existence of the Lincoln Highway crossings once the Skyway was complete. Since the US Route 1 extension was not intended for local traffic, and replacing the vertical lift spans with tunnels would have been prohibitively expensive, a compromise was worked out by the end of the year to construct a high-level crossing of the rivers with a vertical clearance of 135 feet for vessels.

The American Bridge Company, McClintic-Marshall Company, Phoenix Bridge Company, and the Taylor-Fichter Steel Construction Company were awarded contracts for the Skyway, with construction starting in April 1930. 2 31 The two river crossings, built by McClintic-Marshall, were finished first. It opened to traffic at the cost of $21 million 2 on November 24, 1932. 2 8

The Skyway was declared the Most Beautiful Steel Bridge by the American Institute of Steel Construction. 31

Owing to the Great Depression and problems with funding, Governor A. Harry Moore made a formal request to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads to charge tolls on the Skyway on October 25, 1932. 9 It was thought that tolls would be illegal because of the use of $600,000 in federal aid to build the US Route 1 extension, but that it might be possible to transfer the funding to other projects. A bill was introduced into the state legislature on May 1, 1933, to add tolls to the road at a rate of 10¢ for cars and 20¢ for trucks. The legal obstacle to federal aid was resolved by gaining approval to transfer the funds. 14

The Skyway was initially known as the Diagonal Highway, Newark-Jersey City Viaduct, or High-Level Viaduct. On May 3, 1933, the state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Eugene Hejke or Jersey City to name the road after Casimir Pulaski, the Polish military leader who helped train and lead Continental Army troops in the American Revolutionary War. 10 30 An official ceremony to unveil signs dedicating the Gen. Pulaski Skyway was held on October 11, 1933. 2

Although the Skyway was just a half-mile shorter than the Lincoln Highway, it took six minutes less to travel during regular traffic and up to 25 minutes or more during rush hour. The crossing was never fully realized for truck drivers because of the ramps with grades of 5.5% that were too steep for trucks to utilize and merge onto the Skyway safely from. 31

The frictionless concrete surfacing, steep left-side ramps, center breakdown lane, and a straight alignment mostly free of curves that allowed for high-speed travel contributed to an excessive number of crashes. In response, Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City passed an ordinance in November 1933 banning trucks from its section of the Skyway, effectively banning them from the whole road. 11 Enforcement began on January 15, 1934, when Jersey City police began arresting truck drivers using the Skyway. 12 The ban on trucks was upheld by the State Highway Commission on January 23. 2 13

By the 1950s, the Skyway was averaging over 400 crashes per year. In mid-1956, an aluminum median barrier was added to prevent head-on crashes and the roadway was resurfaced to make it less slippery. 2 15 16 The bridge underwent significant repairs in 1984. 17

Rehabilitation

The Pulaski Skyway was considered functionally obsolete because it did not meet modern highway bridge standards, 20 and was rated structurally deficient in 2007. 18 19 The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis raised concerns about the stability of the Skyway which had similar design features. 17 21 Within days of the collapse, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced that it would start a previously planned one-year, $10 million project to make critical structural repairs to the bridge, 22 the first phase of a planned 10-year, $200 million interim renovation project. 17 19

After the work began, it was determined that more extensive repairs were needed, and NJDOT estimated that the work could cost more than $1.2 billion. 23 At the present funding models, NJDOT estimated that it would take a decade before the state could afford to rehabilitate or replace the Skyway. 24 In a controversial move, Governor Chris Christie directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to shift money earmarked for a passenger rail project to the various highway projects, including the rehabilitation of the Skyway and NJ Route 139, the replacement of the Wittpenn Bridge, and the extension of Truck US Routes 1 and 9. 25 26

The full-depth restoration of the Skyway, with an estimated cost of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, was conducted in phases and spread out over ten contracts. 27 28 29

  • Contract 1, for $12 million, was awarded on May 1, 2012. Work included concrete encasement removal and the cleaning and painting of the newly exposed steel from the south side of the Tonnele Circle to Newark Avenue.
  • Contract 2, for $104 million, was awarded on June 11, 2013. Work included the rehabilitation of the Hoboken Viaduct and Conrail Viaduct along NJ Route 139.
  • Contracts 3 and 4, for $126 million and $210 million, respectively, was awarded on May 13, 2013, and April 11, 2014. Work, which involved the replacement of the Skyway bridge deck, began in July 2013.
  • Contract 5, for $56 million, was awarded on June 6, 2017. Work, which involved the rehabilitation of the Kearny ramp, began in April 2018.
  • Contract 6 involved the installation of new drilled shaft and micro-pile foundations surrounding the old pier caissons and new pier shells encapsulating the existing pier columns, structural steel repairs, and the replacement of steel truss members that had pack rust and section losses, and the rehabilitation of rocker bents.
  • Contract 7, for $81 million, was awarded on October 23, 2017. Work, which involved the rehabilitation of the substructure and superstructure of the steel on the Skyway, began in December 2017.
  • Contracts 8 and 9 involved the nstallation of new drilled shaft and micro-pile foundations surrounding the old pier caissons and new pier shells encapsulating the existing pier columns, structural steel repairs, and the replacement of steel truss members that had pack rust and section losses, the rehabilitation of rocker bents, the replacement of all truss system expansion bents, and the rehabilitation of the Broadway ramp.
  • Contract 10 involved the painting of the steel superstructure.

The improvements are expected to extend the service life of the Skyway until 2095. 28


Gallery


Information

  • State: New Jersey
  • Route: US Routes 1 and 9
  • Type: Pratt Deck Truss, Pratt Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 14,907 feet
  • Main Span Length: 550 feet
  • Deck Width: 47 feet

Sources

  1. Williams, Jim. “History of NJ’s First Highway System.” 1920s New Jersey Highways.
  2. Hart, Steven. The Last Three Miles. New Press, 2007.
  3. “US 1&9 Over Elizabeth River & Local Streets.” New Jersey Historic Bridge Data, New Jersey Department of Transportation, p. 11.
  4. Karnoutsos, Carmela. “General Pulaski Skyway.” Jersey City A to Z. New Jersey City University.
  5. “Jersey’s Super Road to Be Opened Today.” New York Times, 16 Dec. 1928, p. XX12.
  6. “New Bridge is Ready: Passaic River Closed to Traffic Till Span Is Placed.”  New York Times, 7 Sept. 1940, p. 7.
  7. Haff, Joseph O. “Jersey Is Building $300,000,000 Roads: Work on 165-Mile Parkway and Bridges Pushed to End Bottlenecks by Mid-1954.” New York Times, 26 Feb. 1953, p. 27.
  8. “Auto Express Route Dedicated in Jersey.” New York Times, 24 Nov. 1932, p. 27.
  9. “Jersey Forces Toll Issue.” New York Times, 26 Oct. 1932, p. 4.
  10. “Jersey Honors Pulaski.” New York Times, 4 May 1933, p. 19.
  11. “Bars Trucks on Skyway.” New York Times, 9 Jan. 1934, p. 17.
  12. “10 Held in Skyway Ban.” New York Times, 16 Jan. 1934, p. 12.
  13. “Skyway Truck Ban Approved by State.” New York Times, 24 Jan. 1932, p. 19.
  14. “Tolls on Viaduct Set by Jersey Bill.” New York Times, 2 May 1933, p. 7.
  15. “Pulaski Skyway to Get New and Safer Surface.” New York Times, 13 Sept. 1955, p. 26.
  16. “Skyway Job to Cause Detour.” New York Times, 4 Jun. 4, 1956, p. 23.
  17. Davis, Tom. “Pulaski Skyway, at 75, to Get First Wave of Critical Repairs.” The Record [Woodland Park], 20 Aug. 2007.
  18. “Attachment #2: Structurally Deficient Bridges (All Bridges).” New Jersey Highway Carrying Bridges. New Jersey Department of Transportation. September 30, 2007.
  19. Kaulessar, Ricardo. “How Safe Are Hudson County’s Bridges? Hoboken/UC Viaduct, Pulaski Skyway Rated ‘Deficient’; State Report Due Sept. 17.” Hudson Reporter [Hoboken], 19 Aug. 2007.
  20. “Pulaski Skyway Rehabilitation.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 12 Feb. 2010.
  21. Buettner, Russ. “After Minneapolis Disaster, Concerns About the Pulaski Skyway.” New York Times, 11 Aug. 2007.
  22. Phalon, Erin. “NJDOT Announces Major Repairs to Pulaski Skyway.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 10 Aug. 2007.
  23. Feeney, Tom C.. “Pulaski Skyway Repairs Will Cost Millions More than First Thought.” Star-Ledger [Newark], 25 Feb. 2008.
  24. Kocieniewski, David. “Many Failing Roads, Little Repair Money.” New York Times, 24 Jul. 2009.
  25. Portway Projects.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 2010.
  26. FY 2014 Transportation Capital Program New Jersey Department of Transportation Projects.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, p. 5.
  27. “Pulaski Skyway Closure & Repairs Explained.” Jersey City Independent, 30 Jan. 2014.
  28. Dee, Joe and Tim Greeley. “Pulaski Skyway Rehabilitation Project to Close Northbound Travel Lanes Commencing in 2014.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 10 Jan. 2013.
  29. Project Details.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 2018.
  30. History and Background.” New Jersey Department of Transportation, 2018.
  31. Holth, Nathan. “Pulaski Skyway.” HistoricBridges.org, 20 Oct. 2013.

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