NJ Transit Board signs off on $1.8 billion funding agreement for Portal Bridge replacement

(Image courtesy of Amtrak)

(The Center Square) – The NJ Transit board of directors has signed off on a $1.8 billion plan to replace a 110-year-old movable bridge over the Hackensack River on the busy Northeast Corridor.

The board voted to authorize executing a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to build a new Portal North Bridge.

The FTA will provide $766.5 million, while the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will provide $57.1 million. New Jersey will allocate $811 million for the project, while Amtrak is chipping in $261.5 million.

“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. The “action is a critical step to finalizing the federal grant agreement and beginning construction.”

NJ Transit will primarily own the new bridge, which is already designed and permitted, while Amtrak will maintain it. The new bridge is part of the Gateway Program, a plan to improve the Northeast Corridor between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station.

Separately, the FFGA includes financing for 25 new multilevel rail cars to further increase NJ Transit capacity. The new cars are an option on an existing order NJ Transit placed of 113 new multilevel cars.

Meanwhile, the state of New Jersey is allocating $190 million to refurbish the historic Newark Penn Station, which the Pennsylvania Railroad opened in March 1935.

The first phase of the project will kick off a $30 million “focus on aesthetics,” including restoration of the station’s waiting room benches and a “deep clean” of the station’s limestone exterior. The remaining $160 million will be spent over five years.

“Penn Station is a vital hub not just for those heading to New York City each day, but it is also a gateway to Newark and the resurgence that has taken place here over the past two decades,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a news release. “We are thrilled to announce these renovations, which, when completed, will help restore this historic station to its former glory.”

The funding is just the latest allocation of tax dollars going to the NJ Transit-owned station.

In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a grant of more than $18.4 million to rehabilitate Platform D at Newark Penn Station. Both Amtrak and NJ Transit use the platform.

“After I secured $18 million in federal funding to improve Penn Station this year, I knew it would need state funding to provide safe and reliable transportation for millions of Americans in Newark and throughout the country,” U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., D-New Jersey, said in a statement. “This additional $190 million for renovations and restorations will help the station survive the coronavirus global pandemic and improve the station for workers and commuters for years to come.”

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