The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorized a $199 million project for structural steel repairs on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge. The Port Authority board is currently seeking bids for the project with work expected to begin in 2011.Natural degradation brought on by age, as well as increased truck traffic on the upper level after the 9/11 attacks has resulted in accelerated deterioration of the deck and framing components. Inspections as recent as 2009, have revealed several locations with varying degrees of corrosion and cracking, missing or loose structural steel connectors. In February 2010, emergency repairs were required resulting in unplanned lane closures and significant traffic delays. The upper portion of the bridge was installed in 1978 and supported by the framing of the original 1931-built structure.The concentration of cracks and structural deficiencies typically lie within a 6 ft zone across the bridge roadway at each of the main beams that occur at every 60 ft interval. The project will include the replacement of the 6 ft portions of the existing steel deck, the rehabilitation of the remaining areas in order to maintain the upper level roadway and extend the life of the structure by approximately 15 to 20 years as well as the resurfacing of the westbound upper level roadway, installation of additional drainage scuppers to reduce corrosion effects by quickly removing run-off, and rehabilitation of finger joints.Contracts will be awarded later this year, according to Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman. Construction will be staged to minimize traffic impacts and is scheduled for completion in 2015.