NJ Transit Board Approves Funding Agreement for Portal North Bridge Replacement

(Image courtesy of Amtrak)

NJ Transit’s Board of Directors authorized the execution of a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to construct a new Portal North Bridge.

The FFGA marks the final stage of the Capital Investment Grant process to fund the $1.8 billion new fixed span across the Hackensack River, and with this Board authorization the FFGA is nearly ready to be signed pending final USDOT and Congressional review. The current 110-year-old Portal Bridge has long been the source of congestion and mechanical issues, resulting in delays for NJ Transit and Amtrak commuters.

“Since taking office, one of my top priorities has been to secure funding for key infrastructure projects that will carry our commuters and our economy forward,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a news release.

“I’m thrilled by the Board’s decision today to green light this agreement, which moves us one step closer to replacing this unreliable, century-old bridge that has threatened to grind the Northeast Corridor to a halt and been a source of untold stress for thousands of riders who rely on it” Murphy added. “New Jersey has put our skin in the game with more than our fair share of funding, and I look forward to working with the Federal Transit Administration to get this shovel-ready project started.”

Authorization of this agreement will allow NJ Transit, with the help of Amtrak, to construct, operate, and maintain a new Portal North Bridge and 2.44 miles of related railroad infrastructure.

“The Portal North Bridge replacement is one of the most important infrastructure projects we are undertaking to improve service reliability and safety for (NJ Transit) and Amtrak customers,” Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in a news release. “Today’s Board action is a critical step to finalizing the federal grant agreement and beginning construction.”

The new Portal North Bridge is fully designed and fully permitted, having received a Record-of-Decision from the Federal Railroad Administration in 2013, which was adopted by the FTA in August 2017.

The replacement, which will be preliminarily owned by NJ Transit and maintained by Amtrak, is designed as a high-level, fixed span bridge that will allow marine traffic to pass underneath without interrupting rail traffic. Once full construction begins, the remainder of the Portal North Bridge Project is estimated to take approximately five years.

The FTA will provide $766.5 million through the Section 5309 Capital Investment Grants Program, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will provide $57.1 million through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program. The remainder will be allocated by New Jersey’s local share of $811 million and Amtrak’s obligation of $261.5 million.

The FFGA also includes financing for 25 new multilevel rail cars to further increase capacity.  The rail cars are options on NJ Transit’s existing order of 113 new multilevel cars.

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