Repair work on the George Washington Bridge's 80-year-old suspender ropes is expected to begin in 2013 and last eight to nine years, says the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Earlier this month, the Port Authority approved a $15.5-million investment in planning funds for the work, only a portion of the $1-billion to $1.2-billion needed for the overall GWB planned project. The $15.5 million is earmarked for engineering and consulting services to prepare the suspender rope project for construction, says an agency spokesperson.

"This is a big, important project because those ropes haven't ever been replaced," says Thomas DiGangi Jr., executive director of the Associated General Contractors of New Jersey, Edison.

The work will entail replacing the bridge's 592 suspender ropes; rehabilitating four main cables and 488 strands in the anchorages; relocating two sidewalks along their entire lengths; and replacing the necklace lighting attached to the main cables. The project will ultimately generate about 3,600 jobs, the Port Authority says.

The bridge, which handled more than 300,000 vehicles a day, is well-designed and engineered and remains structurally sounds, the agency says. However, the suspender rope replacement must be addressed to maintain its continued structural integrity, it adds.

The news follows the agency's approval earlier this month of its $7-billion preliminary budget that covers operating and capital expenses for 2012, about half of which will be put toward capital spending, DiGangi says.

"We are enthused about the capital plan because the [total] value of construction contract awards has increased for 2012," DiGangi says. The contracts will total about $650 million next year, as compared with about $500 million in 2011 and only $317 million in 2010, he says.