NJ Transit board authorizes Portal North Bridge agreement with federal government, last step in project funding

New Jersey Transit’s board of directors authorized a so-called Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to construct a new Portal North Bridge, marking the final stage of the Capital Investment Grant process to fund the $1.8 billion span over the Hackensack River, state officials announced this week.

The new, fixed span will replace the 110-year-old Portal Bridge, which has created numerous commuting delays for NJ Transit and Amtrak trains in recent years.

“Since taking office, one of my top priorities has been to secure funding for key infrastructure projects that will carry our commuters and our economy forward,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a prepared statement. “I’m thrilled by the board’s decision (Wednesday) to green-light this agreement, which moves us one step closer to replacing this unreliable, century-old bridge that has threatened to grind the Northeast Corridor to a halt and been a source of untold stress for thousands of riders who rely on it.

“New Jersey has put our skin in the game with more than our fair share of funding, and I look forward to working with the Federal Transit Administration to get this shovel-ready project started.”

Under the agreement, the FTA will provide $766.5 million and the Federal Highway Administration will provide $57.1 million. The remainder of the cost will come from New Jersey’s share, $811 million, and Amtrak’s obligation, $261.5 million.

Murphy, along with Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the state Department of Transportation commissioner and NJ Transit board chair, and Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit’s CEO and president, hailed the agreement in a news release.

“The Portal North Bridge replacement is one of the most important infrastructure projects we are undertaking to improve service reliability and safety for NJ Transit and Amtrak customers,” Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in a statement. “Today’s board action is a critical step to finalizing the federal grant agreement and beginning construction.”

The agreement will allow NJ Transit, with Amtrak’s assistance, to construct, operate and maintain the new bridge and nearly 2.5 miles of related railroad infrastructure. It also provides financing for 25 new multilevel rail cars, options on NJ Transit’s existing order of 113 new cars.

The new bridge will be preliminarily owned by NJ Transit and maintained by Amtrak, the state noted in its release.

Construction is expected to take about five years.