NEWARK, 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), Albio Sires (N.J.-08), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10), Tom Malinowski (N.J.-07), and Mikie Sherrill (N.J.-11) announced today that the Portal North Bridge replacement—a key component of the broader Gateway Project that includes building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel—has officially moved forward into the engineering phase of the program.
In February, the FTA announced that it upgraded its rating to medium-high for the Portal North Bridge replacement project, making the project eligible to enter the engineering phase and take it one step closer to a federal full funding agreement. NJ Transit had requested approximately $800 million in CIG funds to complete the estimated $1.8 billion bridge replacement project.
“This is welcomed news, a great day for New Jersey commuters and a testament to the relentless efforts by the congressional delegation, stakeholders and governors to keep Gateway moving despite the obstacles thrown in our path. By moving into the engineering phase of the Capital Investment Grants program, we are one step closer to securing a federal full funding agreement to replace the oft-malfunctioning Portal Bridge,” said Sen. Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate’s transit subcommittee. “Portal has long outlived its usefulness and has become the bane of existence for transit riders mired in delays on the Northeast Corridor. Not only must we replace Portal without further delay, but I will not rest until we complete the entire Gateway Project and build a 21st century transportation system that ensures New Jersey’s and the region’s economic vitality for generations to come.”
“The century-old Portal Bridge is a bottleneck for the entire Northeast Corridor, threatening the long-term economic health of our entire region. Replacing Portal Bridge will help provide much-needed relief to New Jersey commuters who depend on reliable, safe rail transit. Anything that speeds this project along is good news for New Jerseyans,” Sen. Booker said. “Still, 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.”
“When the Portal Bridge was first built, William Howard Taft was President and the Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series. We need Portal North now to eliminate this bottleneck for our state commuters and to improve congestion along the entire eastern seaboard,” said Rep. Pascrell. “New Jersey’s congressional delegation has fought alongside the State to unlock every dollar available for this transportation priority. While we are still fighting for more federal funding to be approved, today’s announcement is welcome news that progress continues. Our state, our region, and our national infrastructure need this positive step to ensure millions of Americans can cross the Hackensack River.”
“The Portal North Bridge project is now one step closer to getting done,” said Rep. Sires. “Having the project advance to the engineering phase brings us one crucial step away from securing the federal financial commitment we need to get this century-old infrastructure upgraded. This is a huge win for New Jersey and for the entire region, and I will keep working in Congress to get this project across the finish line.
“I am pleased to hear that the Portal North Bridge project is moving along and look forward to the day when construction can begin on one of the nation’s vital infrastructure projects," said Rep. Payne. “A new bridge would create thousands of jobs for New Jersey families in a time of great need and ease congestion problems due to the existing bridge. It is long overdue for this bridge to be replaced and I hope to see progress on the other portions of the Gateway Program in the near future.”
“Delivering the Portal North Bridge for my constituents has been among my highest priorities since coming to Congress,” said Rep. Malinowski. “Relentless pressure from Congress has produced this major win for New Jersey commuters and I look forward to seeing it over the finish line as we continue to fight for the Hudson River Tunnel as well.”
“This is a milestone for the Portal Bridge project and the larger Gateway Tunnel project,” said Rep. Sherrill. “I have been fighting for the Portal Bridge replacement since I entered Congress, and know just how much it means to our region — for our commuters, for job creation, and for economic recovery from the pandemic. I applaud Governor Murphy, our Congressional Delegation, and the Administration for working together to advance this infrastructure project of national significance. Next up — the Gateway Tunnel.”
Long considered the linchpin of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) connecting Boston to Washington, D.C., the 110-year-old Portal Bridge 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 Amtrak and NJ Transit service to a halt. Building a new, higher, fixed Portal North Bridge is a key component of the broader Gateway Program that also includes construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River into Manhattan, among other improvements.
Last month, 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.
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.
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.
April 22, 2021