End of $2.3 billion NJ Turnpike widening hailed

 New northbound lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike between Interchanges 6 and 9 will open Sunday, and extra southbound lanes will open next week. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New northbound lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike between Interchanges 6 and 9 will open Sunday, and extra southbound lanes will open next week. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The largest expansion project in the 63-year-history of the New Jersey Turnpike is nearly complete. Extra northbound lanes between Exit 6 in Burlington and Exit 9 in New Brunswick will open Sunday. Additional southbound lanes will open next weekend.

 

At a Friday ceremony marking the end project started in 2009, Gov. Chris Christie said the widening should relieve congestion for commuters and improve the flow of traffic during especially busy travel times, such as the day before Thanksgiving.

“Average backups in the corridor during that day were 10 miles southbound and 13 miles northbound,” he said. “Drivers this year can look forward to the first Thanksgiving in decades where they’re not going to have those kind of delays.”

The $2.3 billion project is ending about a month ahead of schedule and $200 million below budget. Christie says the savings will fund other projects on the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, Christie said.

Meanwhile, he said discussions continue with legislative leaders on efforts to reach a consensus on how to replenish the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.

He’s not sure how long it will take to reach an agreement.

“Remember something, we have a transportation capital plan that’s funded through fiscal year ’16, so we’ve got some time and we want to make sure we do it right,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to delay, but I’m certainly not going to have anybody impose an artificial deadline on us, on our ability to get this right.”

The extra lanes will make a big difference for motorists, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“People are actually going to see, physically see, the difference when you make an investment in transportation. Their commutes are going to be better,” he said. “They’re going to get an hour of their life back, if not more.”

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