Questions still remain after the NJ Transit award of a $1.559 billion contract for construction of the New Portal Bridge on the Northeast Corridor. “President Biden kicks off construction of Portal North Bridge” (Daniel Israel — October 26). Amtrak’s $305 billion Northeast Corridor High Speed project calls for the introduction of equipment that will operate at a speed of 180 mph. It is my understanding that the new Portal Bridge has been designed and will be built to accommodate increasing speeds from the current 60 mph to only 90 mph. This conflicts with Amtrak’s long term plans to reduce travel time by increasing speeds up to 180 mph along the Northeast Corridor.
What future track outages and service changes that might impact both Amtrak and NJ Transit customers will be necessary to support construction? How much time will lapse after construction starts and finishes before riders will see the benefits of this investment?
Commuters, taxpayers, transit advocates, elected officials, transportation reporters and project advocates deserve answers to these questions before the contractor completes mobilization of his own work forces and materials prior to construction being well under way. At the end of the day, everyone is looking for safe and reliable service with capital improvements paid for that are fair and reasonable.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.)