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Source : Amtrak
October 13, 2021
Author : Alex Bustillos
It's been called “the most critical infrastructure project in the United States."
The New Jersey Board of Directors approved the contract with board chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti saying “the award of this important construction contract is yet another example of NJ Transit’s commitment to advance critical infrastructure projects that will ultimately improve service to our customers.”
As we have previously reported, the current bridge is more than 100 years old and carries 450 trains and 200,000 passengers per day. It’s also, as we wrote, “notorious for breaking down and getting stuck in the open position while making way for marine traffic, which has a tendency to strand commuters on Amtrak and the NJ Transit line, and essentially shuts down the entire northeast corridor.”
Of course, the new bridge will be built tall enough to allow marine traffic to pass through without having to be opened up and disrupting rail traffic.
Following the start of construction on the project, it’s expected to take about five and a half years, according to the New Jersey governor’s office.
The project is being jointly funded by USDOT, NJ Transit and Amtrak.
“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,” Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia said.
“Few infrastructure projects are as critical to the nation as replacing the aging Portal Bridge,” Gov. Murphy said on Tuesday. “With today’s step, NJ Transit is rapidly moving towards 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 long-standing bottlenecks plaguing New Jersey commuters, but will also create well-paying skilled labor jobs in the process.”
The replacement of the Portal Bridge comes as part of a much larger infrastructure project in the area. There’ll be improvements on rail infrastructure between Newark and Penn Stations, and other rehabilitation projects, but most critically, a new rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River.
Because of the significance in terms of commerce that this project has, support for the project has come from the federal level as well. Not only has New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez supported the project, but so has US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Transit Administration Administrator Nuria Fernandez.
Back in May, Buttigieg and Fernandez spoke to this point. “This is an example of a project that may be located in one region but is so critical that you would feel it anywhere in the country if there were to be, for example, a failure in one of these critical tunnels,” Buttgiieg said.
"I agree that Gateway is a project of national significance. The Hudson Tunnel, which is part of the Gateway Program, is an essential link,” Fernandez said.