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Menendez, Booker, Pascrell, Sires Announce Major Investment in Portal Bridge Replacement Project

Oct 26, 2015
Press Release
Replacement is central to Gateway Project

(Washington, D.C.) - US Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressmen Bill Pascrell (N.J.-09) and Albio Sires (N.J.-08) today announced that New Jersey Transit has been awarded a $16 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to begin construction to replace the century-old Portal Bridge which has become a major chokepoint along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The replacement project will not only increase efficiency and safety on the nation’s busiest rail corridor, it will create thousands of good-paying jobs, hundreds of which will be created through the work funded by this grant.  Replacement of the Portal Bridge is central to Gateway project, which will modernize rail and transit infrastructure in the Northern New Jersey-New York metropolitan region.  

“There is nothing more important to our nation’s economic future than investing in our crumbling transportation infrastructure,” said Sen. Menendez.   “At 105 years-old, the Portal Bridge has become the poster child for what happens when we fail to invest in our aging infrastructure – major delays for thousands of commuters, lost time and money for businesses and a drain on our national and local economies.   I’m so pleased to have successfully fought for these funds that will help us begin the project to replace this critical gateway with a state of the art bridge, boosting our economy and creating good jobs in the process.”

 “Our country is long overdue for a large-scale, actionable plan to fix and modernize our system of roads, bridges, ports, and railways, and no one knows this better than the New Jerseyans who struggle every day with failing transportation arteries like the century-old Portal Bridge.” said Sen. Booker. “The failure of the federal government over the last several decades to invest consistently and sustainably in vital infrastructure now demands immediate action. Beginning the overdue construction of a replacement for the Portal Bridge will help jumpstart infrastructure upgrades throughout the region like the Gateway tunnels, create jobs, and make our state and regional economies stronger. This grant is an important step in the right direction for this project.”

“Just because Governor Christie killed the ARC Tunnel does not mean that we cannot stop working to improve our state’s critical public transit system.” stated Rep. Pascrell, who sent a letter to USDOT with Rep. Sires supporting the project in June.  “This welcome federal investment will help advance reconstruction of the Portal Bridge, an aging bridge located in my district that continues to decay and directly leads to delays for far too many New Jersey commuters. We must not rest until we have modernized and expanded this bridge that affects rail traffic all along the Atlantic Coast.”

“The Portal Bridge epitomizes the state of our Nation’s aging infrastructure and is a choke point that too often causes far-reaching delays. This grant will allow for much needed upgrades to take place and provide some relief to commuters,” stated Congressman Sires.

In June, Menendez and Booker wrote the Secretary of Transportation in support of NJ Transit’s application. 

Built in 1910, concurrent with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s extension from New Jersey into Manhattan, the Portal Bridge is a linchpin in the Northeast Corridor which carries nearly 500 trains and thousands of passengers daily over a moveable swing bridge across the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus.   Because of the limited vertical clearance (23 feet), the bridge must frequently open for marine traffic.  It is prone to mechanical failures, subjected to a 60 miles-per-hour speed restriction, the source of substantial delays, and at the end of its useful life. The replacement structure will be a high-level fixed bridge capable of speeds of 90 mph. 

The $16 million grant will support the following early construction activities:  

1)  138kV Transmission Monopole Realignment – prior to the construction of the eastern structural approach spans to the Hackensack River Network Tied Arch bridge, an obstructing monopole located north of the NEC carrying the 138kV transmission lines that power the overhead catenary system, must be replaced with two new monopoles. These new monopoles, one to the south of the NEC, adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Boonton Line and the other to the north of the NEC further to the west will allow proper transmission alignment.   The selected transmission monopole structure fabricator will perform in-house testing on the monopoles prior to shipping to the job site. Once the monopole sections arrive on site, the poles will be constructed on the concrete foundation.  The 138kV transmission wire, signal power and ground wires will be installed by Amtrak.

Estimated Construction Cost:        $6.90 million
Location/Properties Traversed:      Amtrak & Norfolk Southern Right-of Ways                    
 

2) Temporary Fiber Optic Cable Pole Line - Two existing aerial fiber optic cables (FOCs) as well as Amtrak’s own FOCs, are currently attached to the traction power catenary structures that straddle the NEC through the area of the Project.  In addition, there are buried FOCs located along the NEC.  These FOCs are the main trunk lines into New York City and are of vital importance to the communications network along the East Coast including data transmission to Wall Street. The FOCs need to relocated while the Northern Bridge is under construction. This task will involve the construction of new poles north of the NEC on property to be obtained with a temporary construction easement from the local town. The concrete pole foundations, poles and mounting arms will be installed during this task.  The FOCs will be relocated onto the new poles by the individual cable owners themselves.  Environmental permits to allow for this relocation have already been acquired.

Estimated Construction Cost:        $1.77 million 
Location/Properties Traversed:      Town of Kearny                     
 

3) Northwest Finger Pier (West Shore) – a construction access structure extending from the west shore of the Hackensack River will be constructed to aid in the receiving of construction materials and equipment for the Northern Bridge construction. This finger pier will allow for barge shipment deliveries to the west side of the Northern Bridge, eliminating the need for the movement of much of the massive quantities of structural steel (37M lbs), concrete (370,000 CY), reinforcing bar (19M lbs), and pipe piles (108,000 lf) over the highway and local roadways.   The width of the access structure will be approximately 28-ft to permit a crane to deliver materials from this structure. The northwest pier will project 50 feet out from the river bank to reach the barge channel and will have a mooring platform 100 feet long to allow for transloading from a barge. Permits to allow for this construction have already been acquired.  When this task is complete, this pier may satisfy the NJDEP Waterfront Access permit requirements as a permanent structure providing public access to the waterfront.

Estimated Construction Cost:        $4.7 million
Location/Properties Traversed:      New Jersey Meadowlands Commission
 

4) Service Access Road (Utility Protection Structure) 
This work element is a steel bridge structure on pile supported foundations at grade to support the heavy vehicle loads anticipated during construction.  The structure is required to protect the Jersey City Municipal Utility Authority's (JCMUA) 36 inch diameter cast iron water pipe (c. 1860). The pipe is parallel and adjacent to Bellville Turnpike (NJ Rt. 7).  The new bridge will replace the existing span which is inadequate and will be necessary for continued access of Amtrak's facilities located on the western shore of the Hackensack River adjacent the existing Portal Bridge.

Estimated Construction Cost:        $0.73 million
Location/Properties Traversed:      Amtrak Right-of-Way (ROW)
 

5) Retaining Wall E
Retaining Wall E, a 560 foot long wall, will be necessary to support the new alignment of NEC Track 3.  It is constructed utilizing a soldier pile and concrete lagging system which is a commonly used method for retaining walls.  The new wall is located just west of the Secaucus Transfer Station and north of the NEC. 

Estimated Construction Cost:    $5.9 million
Location/Properties Traversed:  Amtrak ROW
 

Sens. Menendez, who is the ranking member of the Senate mass transit subcommittee, and Booker, who is the ranking member of the Senate rail subcommittee, met in August with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to discuss the Gateway Project, which includes the Portal Bridge replacement and construction of new Hudson River rail tunnels.  The Senators remain committed to seeing the full project completed.