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Two new bridges will eliminate bottleneck and improve service

December 9, 2009

NEWARK, NJ — Final engineering and design work will begin on a pair of new bridges over the Hackensack River that will increase capacity, flexibility and reliability for rail customers traveling into and out of New York.


Under a contract amendment approved today by the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors, the corporation is advancing toward construction of the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement project, a crucial link between Kearny and Secaucus on the Northeast Corridor that will replace the 99-year-old Portal Bridge.  The board also authorized a contract for construction management services.


“This project will provide an essential upgrade to our core capacity and positions NJ TRANSIT to efficiently accommodate growing ridership for decades to come,” said NJ TRANSIT Chairman and Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts.


The new bridges will offer five tracks – three more than the current bridge – providing the capacity to take full advantage of the additional capacity into and out of New York that the Mass Transit Tunnel project will create.  The complementary bridge and tunnel projects will eliminate two bottlenecks for NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak customers.


In addition, the new fixed bridges will provide greater reliability by eliminating the need for a movable span.  The new bridges will be built high enough above the river – 50 feet above mean high water – to allow ships to pass underneath with none of the bridge opening and closing operations that create delays for rail customers. 


“The current bridge is functionally obsolete and expensive to maintain,” said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Richard Sarles.  “This project will eliminate a chokepoint for hundreds of trains and thousands of customers each day.”


About 350 NJ TRANSIT trains operate across Portal Bridge each day, carrying about 150,000 customers.  Another 30,000 Amtrak customers cross the bridge each day.  Amtrak owns the bridge and is working jointly with NJ TRANSIT on the replacement project.


The Board authorized a $69.7 million amendment to an existing contract with Portal Partners Inc. of Audubon, Pa. for final engineering and design and an $18 million contract to AECOM-STV Joint Venture for construction management consultant services.


A contract with Portal Partners Inc. for final engineering for early action components was approved by the Board in July, 2009. 


Construction of early action items, such as utility relocation, is expected to start by mid 2010, with some heavy project construction including access roads, platforms and piers to start in the fall. 


The entire project, estimated to cost about $1.7 billion, is expected to be completed in 2017.  A combination of state and federal sources is expected to provide funding.


NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.