NYC braces for possible "Carpocalypse"

George Washington Bridge
Traffic drives over the George Washington Bridge on August 16, 2011 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(CBS News) Each year more than 100 million vehicles use the George Washington Bridge to travel between New Jersey to New York, but even on good days, traffic can often be stalled. And with the start of a new construction project, things are expected to get even worse.

Perched high above the Hudson River, New York's iconic George Washington Bridge carries 300,000 cars and trucks every day - more traffic than any other bridge in the world. But starting Saturday, traffic on the already congested GW will come to a grinding halt, with thousands of cars and trucks expected to be gridlocked for up to five miles.

The reason? A rehabilitation project that is set to begin further down the expressway on a bridge called the Alexander Hamilton, which carries vehicles into New York City on the opposite side of Manhattan.

One commuter told CBS News, "(The traffic) would be horrible. We'd have to leave an hour before."

Another said, "You've got four lanes of trucks going into two in one sharp go. ... Mathematically that just doesn't work."

It's feared that the George Washington Bridge will become a choke point for traffic entering Manhattan.

Both the George Washington and Alexander Hamilton Bridges are critical points along the northeast corridor. Each day, more than 100,000 trucks travel from New Jersey to New York, delivering goods to Long Island and New England.

Robert Sinclair, Jr., spokesperson of the New York's AAA, said, "It may not be 'Carmageddon' as we saw in California, but it certainly might be 'Carpocalypse.'"  Sinclair was referring to an event that happened at this time last year in Los Angeles, when construction shut down the busy 405 Freeway for an entire weekend.

Experts like Sinclair say that major traffic disruptions like this one will be more common in the coming years, as the need to replace crumbling roadways across the nation becomes even more urgent.

Sinclair said, "With our infrastructure in the condition that it's in - even though this is a major project and disruptive to the flow of traffic - it's something that needs to be done."

Construction on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge is expected to last three months, affecting drivers coming from New Jersey. But after that work is done, workers will move to another section of the bridge and that means drivers from New York will have to deal with the traffic headaches.

Watch the full story in the video above.

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.