BAYONNE AND BEYOND -- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners has officially agreed to set aside up to $1 billion to raise the height of the Bayonne Bridge to keep the port of New York and New Jersey viable for future shipping.
The Bayonne Bridge, which is 78 years old, has a current clearance of between 151 to 156 feet and the bridge is too low to accommodate future container vessels.
“This funding is a vital step towards ensuring the job security of over 260,000 employees whose livelihoods are generated by activity in the Port of New York and New Jersey,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “Finding a solution to this issue is one of my top priorities in Congress. It is imperative that large vessels are able to patron our ports so that economic success can be generated in the region.”
Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith also hailed the decision to invest in a solution to the Bayonne Bridge height issue. The mayor commended Director Chris Ward and Deputy Director Bill Baroni for their foresight in moving this important project forward.
“The Port Authority has focused their attention on this important issue in recent months,” said Smith. “A comprehensive planning analysis has been underway to identify the best way to raise the bridge height. Once the study is complete, they will have a clearer picture regarding which option is best for the region and the communities of Bayonne and Staten Island.”
In 2014, the Panama Canal will widen and larger ships will patron the East Coast. These ships will not be able to pass under the Bayonne Bridge at its current height. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is in the process of undertaking a comprehensive study to examine which potential solutions are the most feasible.
Potential solutions include: (1) jacking the bridge (2) creating a lift bridge mechanism (3) building a new bridge and (4) replacing the bridge with a tunnel. Upon completion of the Port Authority study expected at years end, the most environmentally sound and cost effective approaches will be determined. Local and state officials have been working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and members of Congress to reach a solution.
“A cost-effective and expedient solution is needed to protect local jobs and facilitate an effective goods movement,” said Sires. “I will continue to fight for federal funding to address this important issue.”
Smith said he has been in regular communication with Mr. Baroni and he appreciates the fact that the authority has taken the local community’s concerns into consideration as the process moves forward. Smith has commissioned a citizens advisory board on the Bayonne Bridge chaired by Bayonne resident and attorney James Flynn. The Port Authority has been an active participant in that process as well.
“From the very beginning, we staked out two important positions; first and foremost, any solution to the Bayonne Bridge issue must not adversely impact Bayonne's neighborhoods and second, the bridge issue must be addressed,” said Smith. “These dual positions have been our guiding principles. We understand and support the need to modify the bridge to accommodate modern mega-ships. The Port Authority understands that we will fight to preserve Bayonne homes.”
The Port of New York and New Jersey support over a quarter of a million jobs in the region and over $11 billion in personal income.
“The region must be prepared to accommodate these super vessels or we run the risk of losing our position as the premier port on the East Coast,” said Smith. “I thank the Port Authority, Chairman Tony Coscia, Governor Chris Christie, Sen. Robert Menendez, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Albio Sires, Director Chris Ward and Deputy Director Bill Baroni for their leadership on this critical issue that will preserve jobs and businesses for the entire region.”