N.J. announces 3 infrastructure projects in Port area

Murphy says state will replace two bridges, repave major thoroughfare

Gov. Phil Murphy and a host of elected and appointed officials announced three infrastructure projects Tuesday that they feel will help enhance safety and vehicle movement on roads serving the broader regional port operations.

The planned projects included a $500 million replacement of the Route 7/Wittpenn Bridge, as well as a Route 22 Chestnut Street Bridge project and a Route 27/Dehart Place resurfacing. (More info below.)

“These critical projects will further enhance regional operations and contribute to a stronger, more modern infrastructure that will both deliver safer roads and bridges, as well as fuel our state’s economic recovery — not just as we work toward the end of the pandemic, but for decades to come,” Murphy said. “In doing so, the jobs here at the Port, and the jobs created by the infrastructure projects around us will help ensure a stronger, fairer and more resilient post-COVID economy.”

Murphy was joined by Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, state Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Elizabeth) and labor officials.

The Port of New Jersey and New York is comprised of facilities in both states, serving more than 134 million people regionally. Roughly 500,000 jobs are supported by Port activities, which generate billions of dollars in economic activity each year.

The port is an economic driver not only for New Jersey, but the entire region. Based on record-breaking total cargo volumes in 2019, it is now the busiest port on the East Coast and the second-busiest port in the nation.

Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said the projects will be a big help.

“The Port of New York and New Jersey supports tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the region and generates billions in personal income, business activity and government tax revenue each year, which is why the success of the seaport is tied directly to the economic recovery of this region,” he said. “The seaport is moving record levels of cargo, and investments in regional infrastructure will be critical to ensuring that even more of these goods, commerce and jobs flowing through the port keep coming to the region.”

Here’s a greater look at each project:

Route 7/Wittpenn Bridge replacement: A linchpin to the broader $700 million Portway Corridor Program, the Route 7/Wittpenn Bridge replacement is a nearly $500 million project constructing a new lift-span bridge over the Hackensack River to replace the existing lift-span bridge built in 1930.

The improvements within this project will strengthen access to and between the Newark-Elizabeth Air/Seaport Complex, intermodal rail facilities, trucking and warehousing/transfer facilities, and the regional surface transportation system. These facilities and their access routes are the front door to global and domestic commerce for New Jersey and the greater metropolitan New York region.

The new, wider vertical lift bridge doubles the vertical clearance over Hackensack River from 35 feet to 70 feet, resulting in fewer openings and less congestion. When the new bridge opens this spring, it will improve safety, alleviate congestion and reduce the number of bridge openings by 70%.

Route 22 Chestnut Street Bridge project: The New Jersey Department of Transportation is overseeing the replacement of Chestnut Street Bridge on the Route 22 mainline, located just west of Garden State Parkway in Union Township.

The original bridge was built in 1929 and it carries four lanes of traffic. This bridge — which runs east to Newark Liberty International Airport/Port Newark — is considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The current bridge will be replaced with single span. Once complete, it will enhance safety of the motoring public on Chestnut Street. The new bridge will also provide shoulders for safer movement.

Route 27/Dehart Place: Located less than three miles west of Newark airport and less than five miles from the Port, this milling and roadway resurfacing project is designed to also enhance safety for pedestrians in the adjacent community as port activity continues to increase.

The improvements also include pedestrian countdown signal heads, ADA-compliant ramps, revised traffic signal timings, push buttons, lighting evaluations at signalized intersections, cross walks, bicycle compatible grates, and replacement of select deteriorated curb pieces and sidewalks, in addition to the milling and road resurfacing work.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the DOT has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in advancing projects in the port district that directly and indirectly support the efficient movement of goods.

“The investment in these Portway projects today ensures our road and bridge network will be able to handle the intermodal freight needs of the future in a safe and efficient manner,” she said.

Baraka stressed that Newark’s seaport is central to the city’s economy.

“Maintaining its infrastructure is critical to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. “These investments being announced today will have a long-term positive impact on port operations and help create a safer, stronger, and more equitable Newark.”

Other statements:

  • Davis: “I’m very happy to be here today to show support for these key DOT projects. As mayor of a city located in the heart of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, I can’t emphasize more how important the successful completion of these critical infrastructure projects are for my city, and for the region as a whole.”
  • Cryan: “These infrastructure projects are important for the economic vitality of the region, the safety of motorists and the quality of life for residents. Port Newark is a transportation hub that fuels the flow of goods and services for the entire region. I applaud the governor for moving forward with investments that will put men and women to work at a time when many workers are experiencing the hardships of the pandemic. These are investments that will support the long-term economic strength of the Port region.”
  • John Nardi, president, New York Shipping Association: “The port industry is the fuel that drives the economic engine of the region. These infrastructure projects will help ensure the port continues to grow and thrive.”
  • Fred Potter, president of Teamsters Local 469 and Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters: “On behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, we would like to thank Gov. Murphy for making these important projects a reality. Not only will these projects put people to work, they will also make our roads safer and will pave the way for increased expansion at our ports.”
  • Harold J. Daggett, president, International Longshoremen’s Association: “On behalf of the thousands of ILA men and women who work and reside in New Jersey, we applaud Gov. Phil Murphy for his steadfast support of strong, union jobs and commitment to improve our Port’s infrastructure. Under Gov. Murphy’s leadership, these projects will allow this port to remain the state’s powerful economic engine that fuels so much of New Jersey’s economy.”