Port Authority prefers to raise Bayonne Bridge for larger ships

The following is the text of a press release issued by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
(NEW YORK) — Following a comprehensive review of numerous alternatives, the Port Authority today announced its preferred alternative to provide the most cost-effective solution to the Bayonne Bridge clearance issue — raising the bridge’s roadbed to approximately 215 feet to increase the existing 151-foot navigational clearance restriction.

The recommended bridge modification and rehabilitation solution is designed to fix the bridge clearance issue, which will pose a navigational problem for larger ships trying to access the Port of New York and New Jersey after the Panama Canal expands in 2014.

The “Raise the Roadway” solution will involve reconstruction of the existing approaches, ramps, and main span roadway to a higher elevation that would allow the crossing to accommodate larger ships for years to come. The alternative, as compared with others reviewed to replace the bridge, is the most cost effective, and has the fewest environmental and neighborhood impacts. This bridge modification approach also minimizes visual and physical impacts to the historic bridge and seeks to preserve the iconic arch, while improving the navigational clearance restriction.

Port Authority staff is currently drilling down on engineering issues for the proposed solution, including roadway design, lane configuration and upgrades to the existing 10-foot-wide lanes, providing median dividers and shoulders, and adding additional safety and security measures. The Port Authority also will work with its regional partners to initiate and expedite the environmental regulatory process.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “I want thank the Port Authority for its diligent work on this pressing issue. The “Raise the Roadway†plan provides fiscally appropriate and environmentally sound solution. Modernizing the Bayonne Bridge is essential to maintaining port access for the next generation of transportation and shipping vessels and crucial to the economic future of New Jersey and the region. International trade is a key piece of our economic development strategy, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Port, the Business Action Center’s Office of Global Business Advocacy, and the business community to provide opportunities for New Jersey businesses to compete in the global marketplace.â€

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said, “This is an important next step to developing a cost-effective solution to address the Bayonne Bridge navigational issues.”

Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni said, “We have found what we believe is a cost-effective, workable solution to fixing the Bayonne Bridge, which will ensure that we keep the economic activity and good jobs the port business provides for decades to come. Thanks to Governor Christie’s leadership, we are now able to move forward with the solution to this critical issue.â€

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith said, “The bridge is critical to the circle of mobility in the region. It has become an obstacle to safe navigation in the port so something had to be done. The Port Authority has selected the least disruptive, least expensive and quickest to execute option.â€

In June, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners moved to expedite the project by agreeing to retain nationally known consulting teams to provide technical information on environmental and regulatory issues related to the Bayonne Bridge project, as well as committing to announce a preferred alternative by the end of the year. The Port Authority’s consulting teams have worked to develop approaches to expedite the environmental review process, including the National Environmental Policy Act requirements, and other applicable regulations.

In October, the Board agreed to provide up to $1 billion in its capital planning process to help finance a Bayonne Bridge solution.

Governor Chris Christie has made the Bayonne Bridge project one of his top priorities, given its critical role in allowing ship traffic to get to terminals in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The port currently supports approximately 269,000 jobs in the New York, New Jersey region, and provides for $11.2 billion in personal income, $36.1 billion in business income and $5 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues.

In 2009, the port handled 4.6 million loaded and unloaded 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The dollar value of all cargo handled was more than $146 billion.

For more than 70 years, the Bayonne Bridge has been an integral part of the region’s transportation network. Its innovative structure and design has been regarded as a major engineering landmark, and in 1985, the bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

By Professional Mariner Staff