Finally: N.J. officials sign off on full funding agreement for construction of Portal North Bridge

In what is a big moment for commuters to New York City, Gov. Phil Murphy and a host of transportation officials and elected officials announced the finalization of the Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to construct a new Portal North Bridge.

New Jersey Transit CEO Kevin Corbett executed the agreement with the FTA on Thursday, which will provide $766.5 million dollars in federal funding for the new Portal Bridge — long a source of major service disruptions for NJ Transit and Amtrak customers traveling on the Northeast Corridor.

“Executing the Full Funding Grant Agreement marks a key milestone in our efforts to replace this critical, yet unreliable 110-year-old bridge, and finally give our customers the reliability they deserve as they commute to and from Penn Station New York,” Corbett said. “I want to once again thank our New Jersey congressional delegation for their steadfast advocacy, and our partners at Amtrak for their support. We’re looking forward to getting shovels in the ground later this year.”

NJ Transit, with the assistance of Amtrak, will construct, operate and maintain the Portal North Bridge and 2.44 miles of related railroad infrastructure. The project will address critical issues that have long plagued the Portal Bridge and provide the following benefits to the busiest section of railroad in North America by:

  1. Eliminating the movable span;
  2. Improving reliability;
  3. Increasing train speeds;
  4. Removing conflicts with maritime traffic.

The replacement bridge, which will be preliminarily owned by NJ Transit and maintained by Amtrak, is designed as a high-level, fixed span bridge that will allow marine traffic to pass underneath without interrupting rail traffic. Once full construction begins, the remainder of the Portal North Bridge Project is estimated to take approximately five years.

The deal has been nearly a decade in the making.

“After years of advocacy from my administration, federal and state transportation leaders, and elected officials up and down our impacted rail lines, we are ready to put our capital to work to create a modern, reliable and safe span that will carry our economy and our people forward for the next 100 years,” Murphy said. “With construction of a new bridge, we’ll eliminate one of the most-frustrating choke points in the entire Northeast Corridor, improving commutes for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans.”

Of course, this is just a first step of what Murphy hopes leads to a generational project: approval of the Gateway Tunnel project.

“I look forward to working alongside President-elect (Joe) Biden and his team to ensure the full Gateway Program is delivered, including new tunnels under the Hudson River,” he said.

Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia said a new Portal North Bridge signals a bright new day for Amtrak, NJ Transit and the Northeast Corridor.

“The governor’s relentless advocacy over the last few years under challenging circumstances, coupled with an extraordinary financial commitment, was key to reaching this milestone. We congratulate Sens. (Bob) Menendez and (Cory) Booker and the entire New Jersey delegation on advancing this key element of the Gateway Program. We thank them, as well as Sen. (Chuck) Schumer (of New York), for years of unwavering support. As a result of their collective effort construction will start soon. Amtrak is proud to partner with the state of New Jersey to make the generational investments needed to build modern, reliable infrastructure for the 21stcentury economy.”

Here’s a look at some of the other statements released by officials:

  • Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti: “This funding agreement demonstrates that state and federal agencies can partner together to make needed investments that will modernize and improve our infrastructure to meet future demands. The new Portal Bridge will improve the speed and reliability of regional and commuter rail traffic and will allow marine traffic to move freely without having to wait for the old bridge to open.”
  • Jerry Zaro, New Jersey commissioner, Gateway Development Commission: “Full funding for Portal North Bridge is a big step in modernizing the rail system between New York-New Jersey and the entire Northeast Corridor. After more than a century of service, and using a sledgehammer to knock the tracks back into place, it’s time to retire the existing bridge. We’re thrilled to support NJ Transit to usher in the future of the Northeast Corridor with this project and congratulate Gov. Murphy and our congressional delegation for all they did to make this a reality. Now, it’s time to get the Hudson tunnel funded and built to join Portal in creating a 21st century experience for passengers.”
  • U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.): “Today marks the culmination of an exhausting, years-long fight to secure the federal funding we need to replace the antiquated and oft-malfunctioning Portal Bridge that has been the bane of existence for New Jersey commuters. The execution of the Full Funding Grant Agreement allows this critical project to now move full speed ahead. New Jerseyans deserve a safe and reliable transportation network, and that means advancing the entire Gateway Program, which includes replacing the Portal Bridge and building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.”
  • U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.): “Portal Bridge serves as a vital link to the entire Northeast Corridor, but has long outlived its usefulness, so it is well past time to replace this century-old piece of infrastructure. The federal grant agreement signed today is welcome news in our years-long efforts to modernize our aging rail transit system that has plagued New Jersey commuters. I look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to harness the momentum from this project and see the entire Gateway Program through to completion.”
  • U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherill (D-11th Dist.): “New Jersey is home to our nation’s most critical infrastructure needs, and this funding agreement is a major milestone towards addressing them. Repairing and upgrading the 110-year-old Portal North Bridge will boost the local economy and improve the quality of life for millions of New Jerseyans. It is a testament to the tenacity of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, state and local leaders, and transportation stakeholders that this agreement could be reached amidst many obstacles put in place by the current administration. I look forward to working with the next administration on securing further funding for projects such as the Gateway Tunnel.”
  • U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10th Dist.): “The current, 110-year-old bridge has served us well, but we need a modern bridge to help commuters for the next 110 years. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, I will continue to fight for funding as needed to get the bridge and Hudson Tunnel Project finished as quickly as possible.”
  • U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th Dist.): “North Jersey commuters have suffered enough on a bridge nearly as old as the Stone Age. They have been demanding relief and we hear them through their horns.”