NJ Transit board approves next step in Portal Bridge project
Governor Murphy announced Tuesday that the Federal Railroad Administration is awarding $91.5 million to help replace the Portal Bridge. NorthJersey.com
The NJ Transit board continues to tick off boxes to inch closer to beginning construction on a new Portal North Bridge.
On Monday night, the board unanimously approved entering into a project development agreement with Amtrak, which owns the 110-year-old, swing-span crossing in Kearny over the Hackensack River. The agreement is a necessary step for the federal funding that is helping to cover the costs to build a new two-track, fixed bridge on a line that feeds into New York Penn Station and is one of the busiest sections of railroad in the country.
Kevin Corbett, president and CEO of NJ Transit, said the teams at his agency and Amtrak have been working with the Federal Transit Administration to move the project along.
"Both sides are working very closely and very proactively so we can get the project out to bid before the end of the year," he said, later adding that the goal is to award a contract in spring 2021 with shovels in the ground shortly after that.
Last week, the bridge lived up to its notorious reputation, causing hours of delays after getting stuck when it opened for a passing vessel.
In May, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $91.5 million to NJ Transit and Amtrak for the bridge's replacement, which is expected to cost $1.8 billion, and the Federal Transit Administration elevated the bridge project to the next engineering phase in June, making it eligible for $766.5 million in federal funding.
The state has already approved $600 million in borrowing for the local share, which will be paid for through the Transportation Trust Fund.
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Both criticism and praise were heard from the public Monday before the board vote.
Some who opposed the project said it is not eligible for the federal grant because the structure itself won't increase the number of people who cross the bridge.
"The bridge increases capacity by zero," said Joseph Clift, who added, "It is taking money from other projects."
Corbett disputed that and said the issue has been addressed numerous times, "but the FTA ultimately decides and the Trump administration wouldn’t be giving us $800 million if we didn’t meet the requirements."
Jason Anthony called in to the meeting to support the project.
"It’s way overdue, and we don’t want to see another meltdown like we did last week," he said.
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.