The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that the new Portal North Bridge will be eligible for grant funding from 2021 fiscal year’s budget after years of being stalled.
The House Democratic majority ensured that sufficient funding was included in the fiscal years 2019 and 2020 appropriations bills to cover the first stage of the Portal North project.
The Transportation Funding Fairness Act, the first bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7th District, allows New Jersey to count federal loans as part of its share of jointly funded transportation projects; it was also included in the fiscal year 2019 and 2020 appropriations bills.
The existing Portal North Bridge is 110 years old, badly in need of repair, and a major source of delays for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains that run between New Jersey and New York. According to the USDOT, 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.
Gov. Phil Murphy welcomed the news.
“From day one, my administration has worked closely with our congressional delegation and Secretary Elaine Chao’s team to enhance this critical project that cannot wait another day,” Murphy said. “We have committed the entirety of New Jersey’s local share in the form of $600 million in EDA bonds, completed critical early construction work and developed shovel-ready plans for major construction. Today’s decision by USDOT puts us one step closer toward our ultimate goal: replacing this unreliable, century-old bridge and reducing delays for NJ Transit customers.
“New Jersey remains ready and willing to work cooperatively as a full partner to ensure that this project, which affects the commutes of tens of thousands of our residents daily, is completed as expeditiously as possible,” he added.
The nonprofit Gateway Development Corp. is leading a $14.3 billion-plus infrastructure project to replace the 110-year-old Hudson River rail tunnels and the 110-year-old Portal Bridge, which spans the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny.
Gateway Program Development Corp. Chairman Steven Cohen said the corporation is pleased that the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken this major action toward funding the Portal North Bridge Project.
“Along with the Hudson Tunnel Project, the Portal North Bridge is a critical part of replacing a 109-year-old unreliable system,” Cohen said in a written statement. “Now we need the new tunnel to also move forward to finally provide 21st-century rail transportation into and out of the nation’s economic heart. Last year, GDC released a study demonstrating almost 2,000 hours of lost time for passengers due to major delays at Portal and the existing Hudson Tunnel. It’s long past time to replace these antiquated workhorses.”