TRENTON, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Ranking Member of the Senate’s transit subcommittee that oversees the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10) and Tom Malinowski (N.J.-07), today applauded the formal, final execution of a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), unlocking over $800 million in federal funding for construction of a new Portal North Bridge.
NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Kevin Corbett and State Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti today officially signed the FFGA, the last step in securing the federal funding for the project after the FFGA was formally submitted to Congress on Dec. 11 for its statutorily-required 30-day review. The FTA signed the FFGA Monday.
“Today marks the culmination of an exhausting, years-long fight to secure the federal funding we need to replace the antiquated and oft-malfunctioning Portal Bridge that has been the bane of existence for New Jersey commuters. The execution of the Full Funding Grant Agreement allows this critical project to now move full speed ahead,” said Sen. Menendez, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate’s mass transit subcommittee. “New Jerseyans deserve a safe and reliable transportation network, and that means advancing the entire Gateway program, which includes replacing the Portal Bridge and building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.”
“Portal Bridge serves as a vital link to the entire Northeast Corridor but has long outlived its usefulness, so it is well past time to replace this century-old piece of infrastructure. The federal grant agreement signed today is welcome news in our years-long efforts to modernize our aging rail transit system that has plagued New Jersey commuters,” said Sen. Booker. I look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration to harness the momentum from this project and see the entire Gateway Program through to completion.”
"North Jersey commuters have suffered enough on a bridge nearly as old as the Stone Age. They have been demanding relief and we hear them through their horns," said Rep. Pascrell. "This is a big step to finally replacing this decaying structure. Our entire delegation will work hand in glove with our next President Joe Biden to finish the job. It is a top priority and will remain one until Portal Bride is replaced."
“I am excited to hear that we are one step closer to the construction of a new Portal North Bridge,” said Rep. Payne, a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. “During my time in Congress, I have fought to get millions in federal funding for both this bridge and the entire Gateway Program. I wrote a letter recently to Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, to discuss ways to make the Gateway Program a top priority in the new Congress. The current 110-year-old bridge has served us well, but we need a modern bridge to help commuters for the next 110 years. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, I will continue to fight for funding as needed to get the bridge and Hudson Tunnel Project finished as quickly as possible.”
“I am proud of the work we have done in Congress to secure the necessary funding to replace the Portal North Bridge, which has troubled New Jersey commuters for decades,” said Rep. Malinowski, a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. “I look forward to construction starting as soon as possible, and to working with the incoming Administration to advance the Hudson River Tunnel portion of the Gateway Project.”
“After years of advocacy from my Administration, federal and state transportation leaders, and elected officials up and down our impacted rail lines, we are ready to put our capital to work to create a modern, reliable, and safe span that will carry our economy and our people forward for the next 100 years,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “With construction of a new bridge, we’ll eliminate one of the most-frustrating choke-points in the entire Northeast Corridor, improving commutes for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans. I look forward to working alongside President-elect Biden and his team to ensure the full Gateway Program is delivered, including new tunnels under the Hudson River.”
According to the agreement, the FTA will allocate $766.5 million in CIG funding. An additional $57.1 million will be provided through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program towards the $1.8 billion project. The balance of funding will include $811 million that the State of New Jersey has committed to the project and $261.5 million from Amtrak.
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.
The 110-year-old Portal Bridge, long considered the linchpin of the entire Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the source of major service disruptions for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT riders, carries an average 450 trains and 200,000 passengers each day. The antiquated, swing-style span over the Hackensack River in Kearny is notorious for breaking down and getting stuck in the open position, stranding commuters and grinding service to a halt.
The Northeast Corridor generates one-fifth of the nation’s economy, and the NEC Commission estimates that a disruption of the NEC from Boston to Washington, D.C. would cost the country $100 million a day in lost production and economic activity. In response to a question from Sen. Menendez during a Feb. 12 Senate Banking Committee hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified that any sustained closing of the NEC due to a failure of either the Portal Bridge or Hudson River rail tunnels would put the economy at significant risk.
In August, the FTA announced that $248 million had already been set aside for the Portal Bridge replacement project, pending completion of the FFGA, funding that came from appropriations the congressional delegation successfully fought to provide the CIG program in FY18 and FY19—precisely for its future use to advance the Gateway Project—over the objections of the Trump Administration. This followed the FTA officially moving the project into the engineering phase of the CIG program in June, at the insistence of the congressional delegation and other stakeholders, and in February, upgrading the project’s rating to medium-high, making it eligible to enter the engineering phase, a significant step towards achieving an FFGA.
In May, the delegation announced over $91.5 million in funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to advance replacement of the Portal Bridge and make other upgrades to improve service along the NEC.
Earlier this year at Sen. Menendez’s request, the U.S. Coast Guard moved to permanently restrict marine traffic along the Hackensack River during morning and evening rush hours to eliminate the need for Portal to open and reduce the risk of a bridge failure during peak travel times. Sen. Menendez had brokered the original agreement that led to the Coast Guard initially issuing a temporary marine traffic ban and provide relief for commuters.
In 2015, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Reps. Pascrell and Sires helped secure a $16 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to help fund $20 million in preliminary construction work on the Portal North Bridge, which broke ground in the fall of 2017.
The Portal North Bridge FFGA can be read and downloaded here.
April 22, 2021