Driving from my house to Manhattan means crossing five rivers: the Third, the Passaic, Berry’s Creek, the Hackensack and the Hudson. Getting across the Third can be a bitch if I happen to hit it on a rainy day when parents are dropping their kids off at the middle school, but the only one I really think about is the Hudson.
Catch the Lincoln Tunnel at the right time and the rest of the trip will take care of itself.
Or at least it used to be, before the reconstruction of Route 3 and its bridges started in earnest a couple of years ago. Now an easy ride through the tunnel on the westbound ride no longer presages getting home when dinner is still warm. Going east, the radio traffic reports (usually outdated anyway, unless Helicopter Man is eyeballing your route Right Now) cover the backup at the tunnel, but rarely deign to take note of what’s doing on lowly Route 3.
But while we struggle with the backups and seek out new routes, we are starting to get a look at the shape of the Route 3 of the future. A few observations:
‘Bye, ‘bye, drawbridge. The Passaic River span, which hadn’t been raised in decades, is being replaced with a fixed bridge right from under us. The concrete bridge tender’s booth was blasted away a while back. But what is that gazebo-like structure on a mound overlooking the northwest corner of the bridge?
Route 3 is getting the kind of sound barrier walls increasingly common on urban highways. For Secaucus and Rutherford residents with homes right along the highway, traffic whizzing by day and night can’t be the pleasantest sight and sound. Is a blank wall better?
These walls have something I’ve never seen before on this kind of construction: rectangular windows running along the top, presumably to let in more light. But how regularly do you think they’ll get cleaned?
After making this trip for more than 20 years, I thought I knew all the alternate routes. I didn’t. If you can make it to 17 north, local roads in Rutherford and Passaic make a decent workaround. The turnpike north to 80 and the Parkway is a lot of extra miles, but it beats sitting in traffic when an accident slows everything down. Motorists are still having trouble figuring out the bifurcated bridge over the Hackensack and crash there regularly.
Before I saw the plans, I thought this was a project designed to smooth and beautify (Beautify! The phrase lipstick on a pig comes to mind) Route 3 in time for the 2014 Super Bowl at Met Life Stadium. Now I realize this thing has been 10 years in the making. Which means the Super Bowl is just a blip in the drive to haul this 1940s road into the 21st century. If we’re lucky, the improvements will be done in time for global climate change to raise the water table in the Meadowlands to guard-rail level.