NJ Transit Awards $1.6 Billion Contract to Replace Northeast Corridor’s Portal North Bridge

Governor Chris Christie joins Gateway Trustee Rich Bagger, Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Donald Payne Jr to break ground on the replacement of the Portal Bridge, a two-track 110-year-old swing span structure over the Hackensack River in Kearney and Secaucus, known for malfunctioning and causing delays on the busiest-in-the-nation Northeast Corridor in Kearny, N.J. on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

(The Center Square) – The NJ Transit Board of Directors has approved a nearly $1.6 billion contract to replace an aging bridge over the Hackensack River along the Northeast Corridor.

The contract awarded to Skanska/Traylor Bros Joint Venture to replace the 110-year-old Portal North Bridge is the largest in NJ Transit history, officials said. The project is funded by $766.5 million from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) coupled with money from NJ Transit and Amtrak.

The new two-track bridge will be 50 feet above the Hackensack River, allowing marine traffic to pass beneath without disrupting rail traffic. The current bridge is a swing bridge that must open to allow river traffic to pass, and critics say the bridge is a source of major service disruptions on the Northeast Corridor.

“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 in an announcement.

Part of the Gateway Program, the project covers a more than 2.4-mile-long section of the busy rail line and is expected to take 5½ years to complete. It includes the demolition of the existing bridge and the construction of retaining walls, foundations, concrete piers, structural steel bridge spans and other rail systems.

The entire project is expected to cost about $1.9 billion.

Nancy Snyder, NJ Transit’s chief communications officer, told The Center Square the project includes some additional “soft costs,” including project engineering, design and construction management. The precise breakdown of the funding split “is contingent upon some items currently being negotiated,” Snyder said, noting that the final price tag could be lower.

As another part of the Gateway Program, officials are building a new tunnel beneath the Hudson River. The tunnel’s cost increased from $11.6 billion to $12.3 billion, but it is lower than the 2017 estimate of $12.7 billion, project officials said recently.

In an announcement, NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett called the Portal North Bridge “the most important infrastructure project in the nation next to the Hudson Tunnel Project.” It will spur economic growth in the region and restore “dependable rail service to the millions of customers who count on this critical rail link between New Jersey and New York every year,” Corbett added.

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