U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, ranking member of the Senate’s transit subcommittee, announced Friday the U.S. Coast Guard has granted his proposal for marine traffic restrictions on the Hackensack River to mitigate the risk of a Portal Bridge failure that cripples the entire Northeast Corridor, impacting hundreds of thousands of commuters.
Under the Coast Guard order, which went into effect Thursday, all boats on the Hackensack River that require Amtrak’s Portal Bridge in Kearny to open have been halted between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., with only limited exceptions due to tidal restrictions and with a minimum two hours’ notice.
Menendez made the request with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Gov. Phil Murphy, followed by Amtrak, after two bridge failures on Oct. 30, 2018, during the morning and evening commutes that forced the delay and cancellation of 164 NJ Transit and Amtrak trains, affecting more than 155,000 passengers. In 2018, the 108-year-old rail span, which is forced to open to marine traffic on the Hackensack River, failed to properly close five times, causing major disruptions.
“This agreement provides tens of thousands of customers with immediate relief from painful delays resulting from ill-timed failures of the Portal Bridge,” New Jersey Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said in a statement. “I thank Sen. Menendez and Gov. Murphy for their leadership on this issue. We continue to await federal funding for a new high-level Portal Bridge which will end this century old problem once and for all.”
“[Gateway Development Corp.] and all our partners are doing everything we can right now both to move Gateway forward and to improve the daily commute and quality of life for 200,000 riders,” Gateway Program Development Corp. Chairman Jerry Zaro, said in a statement.