The cost has not been completely totaled. Figure $110 million, give or take a few bucks on either side.
And the timeline for the ribbon-cutting is a bit uncertain. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said he’s hoping for the end of 2024 or early 2025. Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s heard it will be an 18- to 24-month effort.
But the impact of the long-awaited Mulberry Commons Pedestrian Bridge that literally will connect the Prudential Center and Mulberry Commons to Newark Penn Station and the Ironbound — and figuratively will bring together two parts of Newark like never before — that’s crystal clear.
“It’s almost unfathomable the impact that this will have,” Murphy said.
Murphy, Baraka and a host of others came together Tuesday afternoon for a ceremonial groundbreaking of a project that has been envisioned for a decade or more.
They thanked the late Jerry Gottesman, the developer who had been pitching the bridge as a Highline-type project seemingly since the Prudential Center opened in 2007 — and certainly before Murphy was first elected governor.
They thanked the Legislature and the Newark city council for passing bills that will help raise the funds.
They thanked Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority for their support — as well as the efforts of Evans Anyanwu (the project director), Gilbane (the construction manager) and Jennifer Sage (the founding partner of Sage & Coombe Architects).
Mainly, they just gushed about the impact of the bridge — and how it represents so much more than just a passageway that connects the East Ward and the Central Ward.
“There are a million reasons why this project is incredibly important to the city of Newark,” Baraka said. “From environmental issues and green space to addressing our heat islands to recreation, community unity, walkability, quality of life, pedestrian access, auto safety, air quality, making sure we have access to recreation to our sports and entertainment, our food and beverage — all these things that connect communities is an incredible reason why we need to have this.”
How the Mulberry Commons Pedestrian Bridge will be paid for:
- The city of Newark closed on $110 million in Mass Transit Access Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 2022, on Nov. 22, 2022;
- At closing, this financing generated approximately $103.7 million (which is expected to gain $5 million in interest to help);
- The city has collected approximately $4.1 million year-to-date in Mass Transit Access Tax revenue.
Newark officials said the bridge is a key piece of the city’s development strategy for the central business district. Hundreds of millions of additional development projects will come as a result of the bridge, Baraka said.
The initiative also coordinates with the state’s long-range transportation plan and its plans to renovate and refurbish Newark Penn Station into a state-of-the-art transit hub that will attract more visitors to the city.
Most of all, the pedestrian bridge will open opportunities for Newark residents, they said.
In a city where fewer than 50% of the residents have cars, the always-busy McCarter Highway has served as a barrier — one that some compared to the Hudson River or even the Great Wall.
Murphy said the bridge will serve as connector, comparing it to the Big Dig project in Boston, which put an interstate underground and built a city-unifying park above.
“It changed Boston completely — this bridge will change Newark in exactly the same way, completely,” he said.
Murphy said it will give Newark a center of gravity and a backbone to a city that has been split in two. More than anything, Murphy said, it will signify the continued growth of the city and the state.
“I’ve said this many times: As Newark goes, so goes the state of New Jersey,” he said. “And, let me just say this: Newark is going really, really well. And today’s a great example of that.”