The 110-year-old Portal North Bridge finally is being replaced.
In what is a huge win for commuters and the next step toward two new tunnels to New York City, the board of directors of New Jersey Transit on Tuesday approved a $1.6 billion contract with a Skanska/Traylor Bros. joint venture for the construction of the new bridge.
The Portal North Bridge project is an important initial element of the broader Gateway Program, which will eventually double rail capacity between Newark and New York. The project will eliminate the existing swing bridge, which has been the enduring source of major service disruptions for NJ Transit and Amtrak customers traveling on the Northeast Corridor.
The new bridge is a modern two-track, high-level, fixed-span bridge that will improve service and capacity along this section of the Northeast Corridor. The new bridge will rise 50 feet over the Hackensack River and will allow marine traffic to pass underneath without interrupting rail traffic.
The $1,559,993,000 construction contract for the project spans 2.44 miles of the Northeast Corridor line and includes construction of retaining walls, deep foundations, concrete piers, structural steel bridge spans, rail systems, demolition of the existing bridge and related incidental works.
Once construction begins, the construction contract is anticipated to take approximately five and a half years.
The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, NJ Transit and Amtrak. In January 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the signing of a Full Funding Grant Agreement that secured $766.5 million in Federal Transit Administration funding to support the project’s construction.
Murphy obviously was thrilled to announce the news.
“Few infrastructure projects are as critical to the nation as replacing the aging Portal Bridge,” he said. “With today’s step, NJ Transit is rapidly moving toward beginning the first phase of the largest infrastructure project in the United States.
“This award will not only bring a bridge that will resolve the longstanding bottlenecks plaguing New Jersey commuters, but will also create well-paying skilled labor jobs in the process.”
A number of stakeholders offered thoughts. Here are some:
- Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti: “This project will power the region’s economic vitality for generations to come.”
- NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett: “This construction award, which is the single largest in our agency’s history, is the culmination of more than three years of hard work and determination by NJ Transit and our project partners at Amtrak.”
- Amtrak board Chair Tony Coscia: “A new Portal North Bridge that won’t have to open and close for river traffic is vital to improving safety, speed and reliability in the busiest section of the Northeast Corridor.”
- U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.): “This is incredibly welcome news for a key part of the Gateway Project to move forward. We’ve all been over the Portal North Bridge. It’s more than 100 years old and literally falling apart. It doesn’t close properly and regularly catches on fire, causing massive delays and stalling commuters who are just trying to get home to see their families.”
- U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.): “This is a full community endeavor that, once completed, will have a hugely beneficial impact on families and businesses across northern New Jersey and the nation’s economy.”