By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– If you use the Harbor Tunnel, prepare to find another route.

Alex DeMetrick reports repairs are going to mean major back-ups this summer.

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The 71,000 cars a day that travel through the Harbor Tunnel on Interstate 895, must also cross over the steel bridge. And repairs this summer will make the bridge a choke point.

“We do expect to have extensive backups. The delays at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel during this eight-week period could be up to an hour,” Cheryl Sparks, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDoT), said.

The work will begin after this month’s Sailabration is over, the evening of June 19. And by the time the Labor Day Grand Prix runs, most of the bridge work will be done.

“All lanes will be open for traffic during the Labor Day weekend,” David LaBella, a manager at the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), said.

The work zone will cover one mile and concrete on the bridge will be milled and replaced. It’s not an emergency. It’s wear and tear.

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“With all the effects of traffic, and just it’s normal deterioration, and the road salt,” LaBella said.

The first phase will mean the loss of the outside northbound lane. Stage two will be the inside lane. Stage three will leave only one lane in each direction open.

After Labor Day, four narrower lanes will open to accommodate construction of a New Jersey wall.

Closing the bridge only on weekends to do the work was considered and quickly ruled out.

“It would certainly drag on for much, much longer. We’d be at the mercy of the weather,” LaBella said.

“The message is clear: Avoid I-895, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, this summer if you can,” Sparks said.

Because the bridge that makes the tunnel possible could make for an impossible commute.

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MDTA is recommending drivers use the Key Bridge or the Fort McHenry Tunnel during repair work.