A map indicating the proposed work areas expected to start in the spring. Two lanes of Hudson St. are expected to be closed on and off over the next five and a half years.
Hudson St. lane closures starting soon in Tribeca
By Julie Shapiro
The stalled, honking traffic outside the Holland Tunnel could soon get even worse.
Starting in the late spring, the city is launching a five-and-a-half-year water main project that will tear up Hudson St. in north Tribeca, along with four side streets. Hudson St. is a key thoroughfare that funnels traffic both into and out of the Holland Tunnel during rush hour.
“It’s going to worsen an already very congested condition,” said Phil Mouquinho, who chairs a traffic and transportation taskforce for the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district and owns PJ Charlton Italian Restaurant nearby on Greenwich St. “What we’re seeing here is the mother of all traffic jams.”
The city said the work is necessary to replace aging water mains and connect them to the new Third Water Tunnel. The city Dept. of Design and Construction would not disclose the project’s cost.
The city promised to keep at least one lane of Hudson St. open during the project, but that isn’t much comfort, said Shirley Secunda, chairperson of Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee.
Hudson St., which is one-way northbound, now has four lanes of traffic just south of Canal St.: two that feed into the Holland Tunnel and two that continue north into Hudson Square. Those lanes now back up during rush hour, and closing even just one or two of them would result in more traffic diverted onto Canal, West, Spring and Varick Sts., which are already overwhelmed now, Mouquinho and Secunda said.
Scott Gastel, spokesperson for the Dept. of Transportation, said the city would keep two lanes of Hudson St. open, but he did not say whether those lanes would lead to the Holland Tunnel or to Hudson Square.
The Holland Tunnel also has an off-ramp that feeds onto Hudson St. just south of Canal. At least one lane will be maintained on that off-ramp at all times, said Craig Chin, spokesperson for D.D.C.
The Port Authority, which operates the tunnel, said that no final decisions have been made.
“The Port Authority is continuously working with the City of New York to develop traffic mitigation plans that are manageable for commuters, residents, tunnel operations and the execution of the project,” said Jen Friedberg, a spokesperson for the Port.
Although the project is scheduled to last for five-and-a-half years, Chin said the contractors would be given incentives to expedite the work so it could be completed early. Chin also said the project would be broken into three phases, so it is possible that different parts of Hudson St. will be impacted at different times.
In addition to affecting a six-block stretch of Hudson St. between Laight and Worth Sts., the work will also affect Hubert St. and N. Moore St. between Hudson and West Sts., and Beach St. and Franklin St. between Hudson and Greenwich Sts. Those side streets will also have their water mains replaced.
The new water mains will connect to shaft 29B of the Third Water Tunnel. The new water tunnel is scheduled to open in 2012 to relieve the burden on the existing tunnel. Downtown Express first reported the city’s Hudson St. plans last May.
Although the entire project will take place below Canal St. in Community Board 1, Secunda said Hudson Square in Community Board 2 would bear the brunt of the extra Holland Tunnel traffic. When D.D.C. presented the project to C.B. 2 last week, Secunda urged the city to add traffic enforcement officers to C.B. 2 as well as C.B. 1, which Secunda said the city agreed to consider.
“If we don’t have enough people there directing the traffic, it will become a nightmare,” Secunda said.
The Hudson Square BID was already concerned about the Holland Tunnel traffic before hearing about the water main project, so the BID hired Eng-Wong, Taub & Associates to do traffic consulting. The firm is looking into tweaking signal timing and making other short-term changes, and they should have recommendations by June, said Ellen Baer, president of the BID. Baer also hopes to work on long-term fixes to the traffic problem.
The city has not yet made a presentation on the project to Community Board 1, but is scheduling one soon, D.D.C. said.