O’Toole: Impact of $44M grant goes far beyond port

DOT money will be part of 10-year, $176M roadway modernization project

Let’s get straight to the economic numbers.

The $44 million infrastructure grant the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Monday for the Port Street Corridor Improvement Project at Port Newark is expected to create 260 additional direct jobs, $25 million in direct wages and $171 million in regional economic activity.

The award is to be provided through the USDOT’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA, discretionary grant program, which aims to advance President Joe Biden’s administration’s priorities to rebuild U.S. infrastructure through the funding of regional and national projects of economic significance.

The award, discussed at a media event Monday, was authorized July 1. As required under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, Congress has 60 days to review proposed INFRA grant awards. After the 60-day review period, USDOT may begin to obligate funding.

The $44 million grant will go toward a $176 million modernization project to create a safer, more efficient configuration of the marine terminal’s road network in Newark. Federal funding will help to deliver vital safety upgrades to a major connector that is essential to local and regional commerce.

“This important national investment in our roadway infrastructure has a broad impact far beyond the port, as millions of consumers and thousands of livelihoods depend on the safety and efficiency of its operations,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said. “Shoring up the roads that lead to and from Port Newark ensures that critical supplies, goods and commerce can keep moving throughout the region.”

The goals of the Port Street Corridor Improvement Project are included in the Port Master Plan 2050, a 30-year comprehensive roadmap of proposed seaport-specific capital projects and capacity improvements for the Port of New York and New Jersey, which is owned and operated by the Port Authority.

A key aspect of the project is the creation of a safer northern access point to Port Newark, a 930-acre complex of container, bulk and auto terminals, roadways, warehouses and wharves, which expands across the Newark waterfront. The existing northern entrance is used by approximately 3,600 vehicles per peak hour, 40% of which are trucks serving the port complex.

Improving this critical access point would benefit port stakeholders including importers, exporters, the trucking industry and other members of the local, regional and national supply chain, and benefit tens of millions of consumers who rely on the goods, food and supplies that come through the seaport.

Once completed, the project would eliminate more than 700,000 hours of travel time for vehicles accessing the northern entrance of Port Newark in its first full year and cut vehicular accidents and fatalities by 37%. In the period from 2005 to 2018, the area saw 401 accidents, including 81 injuries and three deaths, primarily due to the substandard geometric features of the existing roadway and ramp infrastructure.

The Port Street Corridor Improvement Project aims to eliminate these substandard conditions, with the most significant enhancements planned for the interchange of Port and Corbin streets that links the seaport with several major New Jersey roadways such as Interstate 78 and the New Jersey Turnpike. It also serves nearby Newark Liberty International Airport.

Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said the grant will have true impact.

“This INFRA grant advances the Port Authority’s commitment to modernizing legacy infrastructure while making our facilities safer and more efficient as we keep the region moving,” he said. “We thank the Biden administration’s recognition of our seaport’s critical role in the national and regional supply chain with an investment in our port roadway infrastructure that will yield safer and more efficient access to Port Newark and Newark airport.”