NJ Transit awards $1.599 billion contract for new Portal Bridge

Skanska/Traylor Bros Joint Venture will construct what will be called the Portal North Bridge

A rendering of the new bridge once completed. Image via NJ Transit
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A rendering of the new bridge once completed. Image via NJ Transit

NJ Transit has awarded a contract to replace the over 110-year-old Portal Bridge that spans the Hackensack River from Kearny to Secaucus.

The decrepit, swing-style bridge is notorious for breaking down and getting stuck in the open position for marine traffic, stranding commuters and bringing Amtrak and NJ Transit service to a halt.

“Few infrastructure projects are as critical to the nation as replacing the aging Portal Bridge,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “With today’s step, NJ TRANSIT is rapidly moving towards beginning the first phase of the largest infrastructure project in the United States. This award will not only bring a bridge that will resolve the long-standing bottlenecks plaguing New Jersey commuters, but will also create well-paying skilled labor jobs in the process. We would not be at this step today without our partners in the Biden Administration, NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, our federal delegation, Amtrak, and the State of New York.”

An average of 450 trains and 200,000 passengers cross the bridge daily. Now, commuters can rejoice as plans to construct a new bridge are in motion.

Billion-dollar contract awarded

The NJ Transit Board of Directors voted unanimously at its Oct. 12 meeting to award a $1,559,993,000 contract to Skanska/Traylor Bros Joint Venture to construct the replacement bridge.

“This construction award, which is the single largest in our agency’s history, is the culmination of more than three years of hard work and determination by NJ TRANSIT and our project partners at Amtrak,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “NJ TRANSIT will soon begin construction on the most important infrastructure project in the nation next to the Hudson Tunnel Project, creating jobs and spurring economic growth for our region, and restoring dependable rail service to the millions of customers who count on this critical rail link between New Jersey and New York every year.”

The project is being funded by the US Department of Transportation, NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak. In January 2021, Gov. Murphy announced the signing of a Full Funding Grant Agreement which secured $766.5 million in Federal Transit Administration funding to support the project’s construction.

This “is another major milestone after we secured federal funding for the project earlier this year. It represents a critical step towards replacing the century-old Portal Bridge that has been riddled with failures and malfunctions for too long,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. “I appreciate the leadership of Governor Murphy who has been committed to the completion of the Gateway Project throughout his time in office. Together, we will build a new bridge, replace the Hudson tunnels, and move our nation forward.”

Bigger, better, faster, stronger

The new Portal North Bridge will be constructed adjacent to the old one. The new bridge will be higher than the current one and fixed in place, eliminating malfunctions.

The contract includes the construction of retaining walls, deep foundations, concrete piers, structural steel bridge spans, rail systems, demolition of the existing bridge, and related incidental works. Once construction begins, the construction contract is anticipated to take approximately five and a half years.

“When the Portal Bridge was built, William Howard Taft was in the White House and Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, who represents the 9th Congressional District including Secaucus and parts of Kearny. “Thanks to teamwork between Governor Murphy and our state’s delegation in Washington, New Jersey has done its part to get funding to begin this needed construction work. New Jersey Transit’s moving forward to begin this work is welcome. Our commuters have waited long enough to fix this transit chokepoint. Let’s get started.”

Rep. Albio Sires, who represents the 8th District including parts of Kearny, said: “I am pleased by NJ Transit’s decision to award this contract and begin the process of building a new Portal North Bridge, which is used by up to 200,000 passengers a day. As a senior member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have long advocated for funding to replace the bridge and to complete the other parts of the Gateway Program. I am committed to working with NJ Transit and my colleagues in the House and Senate to get this project over the finish line.”

The rest of the Gateway Project?

Building a new, higher, fixed Portal North Bridge is a key component of the broader Gateway Project, which includes modernizing the rail infrastructure between Newark and New York Penn Stations, construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel, and rehabilitation of the existing century-old tubes that were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Now that construction can commence on the Portal North Bridge, officials will likely push for support and funding for the other aspects of the Gateway Project.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.