NJ senators announce $91.5M for replacement of the Portal Bridge and Amtrak upgrades

NJ senators announce $91.5M for replacement of the Portal Bridge and Amtrak upgrades

By:  Liz Carey
Transportation Today

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with other members of the New Jersey Senate Delegation, announced Tuesday more than $91.5 in funding would go toward fixing a critical component of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) connecting Boston to Washington, D.C. – the Portal Bridge.

The Portal Bridge is considered a linchpin in the transportation infrastructure of the NEC but is antiquated at 110-years-old. While the bridge carries an average of 450 trains and 200,000 passengers each day, it frequently gets stuck in the up position over the Hackensack River in Kearny, stranding commuters and grinding transit service to a halt.

The $91.5 million would build a new, higher bridge and would include a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River into Manhattan.
“The oft-malfunctioning Portal Bridge has become the bane of existence for commuters. It’s long outlived its usefulness and must be replaced without further delay,” said Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate’s transit subcommittee. “This federal funding keeps Gateway moving forward and makes needed upgrades along the busy Northeast Corridor to provide commuters a safer, more reliable and more resilient transit system. I am thrilled to lead a congressional delegation that continues to deliver for the people of New Jersey, despite the challenges and roadblocks put up in Washington. I will not stop fighting for the critical resources we need to complete Gateway and build a 21st-century transportation system that ensures New Jersey’s economic vitality for generations to come.”

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded Amtrak $55.1 million as the federal cost share for the bridge project. The new, fixed bridge will be built 50 feet above the Hackensack River, which would eliminate the need for it to open for marine traffic, and allow trains running across it to go faster.

Additionally, the N.J. Transit Authority was awarded $36,408,410 to reconstruct an electrical substation in Kearny that supplies power to a section of the NEC and existing Hudson rail tunnels leading into New York’s Penn Station, damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The new substation will provide for faster, more dependable train service, with a more reliable power source for the NEC, should the area suffer from blackouts, severe weather, or cyber-attack.

The project would build a larger, higher platform to put the substation on while rerouting or redirecting up to four traction power transmission circuits that feed the substation.

“New Jersey’s rail infrastructure is vital to the economic health of not only our state but our region,” Booker said. “The reality is this critical infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet, with the century-old Portal Bridge serving as a bottleneck for the entire Northeast Corridor. This federal infrastructure investment will help provide much-needed relief to New Jersey commuters who depend on reliable, safe rail transit. But our work is far from over. We must remain focused on long-term solutions to replace our obsolete infrastructure by moving projects like Gateway forward in order to help strengthen our economic growth, boost job creation, and ensure commuter safety.”

According to the NEC Commission, a disruption of the NEC from Boston to Washington, D.C. would cost the United States $100 million a day, and that the NEC generates one-fifth of the nation’s economy. In response to a question from Menedez during a Feb. 12 Banking Committee hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified that sustained closing of the NEC, due to either a failure of the Portal Bridge or the Hudson River rail tunnels, would put the entire U.S. economy at risk.