The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) in May removed the air draft height limit, marking a milestone in the effort to raise the navigational clearance by 64 feet, from 151 feet to 219 feet.
Despite the hoopla about the height of the bridge, much work has yet to be done. The entire bridge project will not be completed until 2019, when the temporary two-lane road becomes a permanent four-lane road with a path accessible by bicycle and foot, as well as new piers, a new roadway deck, and new approach roads. The original projected cost of $1.3 billion fell short of the final $1.6 billion the project eventually cost after multiple renovation delays.
The project is part of a series of infrastructure improvement projects to increase access for new Neo-Panamax container ships to US ports and make trade more efficient by reducing operating costs for shipping lines.
The Panama Canal celebrated its expansion in June of 2016, adding a new lane allowing for more traffic and Neo-Panamax ships to pass through, which have drafts of 48 feet or more and can carry twice as much cargo as the previous Panamax ships. Now, those ships can access the deep water ports, warehouses, and cargo transportation systems that make New Jersey an ideal global trading hub.
Three months after the Panama Canal’s opening, the Harbor Deepening Project was completed in September, which deepened the Kill Van Kull by 50 feet. With more space added above the Panamax ships by raising the roadway, and below them by deepening the harbor, the Port Newark and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal will be fully accessible. Currently, GCT Bayonne is the only port reachable by the new mega-ships.
Bridge construction was originally planned for completion simultaneously as the Harbor Deepening Project. However, multiple construction delays prevented Panamax ships from reaching ports in New Jersey and have delayed commuters traveling over the bridge to and through Bayonne from Staten Island.