The Pulaski Skyway is a much-travelled antiquated roadway to get from northeastern New Jersey to New York City. Along with visions of TV news reports with the voice over “meanwhile in the Garden State” showing yet another local politician being arrested for alleged corruption, countless trips on the Skyway are among my memories of growing up in New Jersey.
This random post was prompted by a recent comment by Bret Stephens in The NY Times saying that when he occasionally drives the Pulaski Skyway he grips “the wheel with both hands while idly wondering if a bridge that was built in the Hoover administration will hold for another five minutes or collapse into the Hackensack River.” It reminded me of many daring journeys across the dangerous expanse of the legendary Pulaski Skyway on trips from New Jersey to New York City in my youth.
The 3.5mile bridge-causeway between Newark and Jersey City crosses the Passaic and Hackensack rivers to provide a connection to New York City via the Holland Tunnel. On the way, one is treated to views and odors of the scenic New Jersey Meadowlands, an ecological nightmare of toxic waste dumps, chemical factories, oil refineries, and a sadly blighted and deteriorated swamp-like landscape.
(Note: It is part of New Jersey lore that Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa’s body was disposed of by The Mob somewhere in the Meadowlands.)
Although the viaduct is listed in the New Jersey register of historic places (along with countless places proclaiming “George Washington slept here”), it is best known for its traffic congestion and functionally obsolete and unsafe design. There are no shoulder lanes on the Skyway so it is a life-threatening experience for anyone with a car break down on the Pulaski.
Despite various “fixes” since 1934 there has been little that could be done to improve the condition of the infamous Skyway. I wonder if or how the new U.S. infrastructure initiative will impact this iconic landmark.
The difference with Japan’s infrastructure that ranks among the world’s best is striking. The country has a highly developed and well-maintained physical infrastructure of roads, highways, railways, subways, airports, harbors, warehouses and telecommunications that undergoes regular upgrading and expansion.
However, there is one problem area with infrastructure implications – bicycles. Few people think of bikes as dangerous, but a marked increase in bicycle accidents, many quite serious, involve pedestrians and are caused by cyclists.
The trouble with bicycles – convenient, environment-friendly and excellent exercise – is that anyone can ride one. You don’t need a license and there’s no mandatory instruction on rules of the road that based on personal experience many Japanese cyclists apparently don’t know or choose to ignore.
Japan is far behind other countries, notably Holland and Scandinavia, in creating exclusive bicycle lanes, an infrastructure initiative that would make both walking and cycling in Tokyo a safer and more enjoyable experience.