U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, both Democrats, along with U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr, D-9th District; Albio Sires, D-8th District; Donald Payne Jr., D-10th District; and Tom Malinowski, D-7th District, on Monday announced more than $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 Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC).
The FRA awarded Amtrak $55,100,000 toward the federal cost share for the Portal North Bridge Project, while New Jersey Transit was awarded $36,408,410 to reconstruct electrical substation 41 in Kearny, which supplies power to a stretch of the NEC and existing Hudson rail tunnels leading into New York Penn Station.
The 110-year-old bridge is badly in need of repair, and a major source of delays for NJ Transit and Amtrak trains that run between New Jersey and New York. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, trains crossing the bridge must slow down due to its weak structural integrity, and when it opens to allow boats to pass it sometimes fails to close, disrupting rail traffic between Boston and Washington, D.C. The bridge, which constantly breaks down, carries about 200,000 passengers daily.
“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,” Menendez said. “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.”
The new span will be built with 50-foot clearance above the Hackensack River, negating the need to open for passing marine traffic. This will allow trains to run at faster speeds and substantially reduce delays along the NEC due to openings for waterway traffic and ensuing mechanical failures.
The electrical substation in Kearny suffered considerable damage during Superstorm Sandy and remains vulnerable to floods. The new, more resilient facility will allow for faster, more dependable train service and, when connected to NJ Transit’s independent power generation system, will provide power for the NEC in event of regional blackouts, severe weather, or cyber-attack. The project includes building the substation on a larger, higher platform—elevated 15 feet—and rerouting or redirecting up to four traction power transmission circuits that feed the substation.
The Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) assisted with the proposal by providing the cost benefit analysis required to secure the federal funding.
“We are extremely grateful for these two grant awards, which are critical to the advancement of the Portal North Bridge project and the overall reliability of the NEC. As agency for the replacement of Portal North Bridge, along with my role as co-chair of the Northeast Corridor Commission with FRA Administrator Ron Batory, there is no higher priority at NJ Transit than getting shovels in the ground to restore reliability for the 450 NJ Transit and Amtrak trains a day that cross the Portal Bridge,” said NJ Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett. “We thank the USDOT, our partners at the FTA and FRA, and the N.J. congressional delegation for their continued support of these critical projects.”