AASHTO Journal

FTA Action Advances Plans to Replace Aged Portal Railroad Bridge in New Jersey

The Federal Transit Administration formally adopted an environmental impact statement for the Portal Bridge project to replace a century-old railroad swing bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey, a key step toward funding the work that is part of a broader program to improve rail capacity in the Northeast.

The project would replace the old swing bridge between Kearny and Secaucus that began operation in 1910 and sometimes snarls East Coast passenger train travel when it becomes stuck in the open position for waterway traffic. The planned new structure would be a high-level fixed bridge that rises above river traffic.

portalbridge.jpg Concept of high-span replacement for Portal Bridge. Image/Amtrak project site.

Plans also call for building a second rail bridge in that area later to boost Northeast Corridor capacity.

The bridge replacement "is currently in the project development phase of the FTA's Capital Investment Grants Program," the FTA said. "The project's partners – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ Transit and Amtrak – are seeking $811 million in CIG funding toward the $1.64 billion total cost."

The FTA issued what stakeholders said was a long-awaited "record of decision" to formally adopt a 2008 impact statement from the Federal Railroad Administration, plus three subsequent re-evaluations.

"This ROD is a part of the environmental review process required by law for projects seeking federal funding through the CIG Program, the FTA said. "Additional steps must be completed according to legal criteria before the FTA can make a determination about CIG funding for the project."

A Portal Bridge project website said that the existing bridge "hosts about 450 trains per day traveling between Newark, N.J., and Penn Station, New York, [and] is a major bottleneck and source of delay of train traffic" as the "aging mechanical components sometimes malfunction while opening and closing for maritime traffic."

The plan by NJ Transit and Amtrak is to build a two-track replacement structure known as Portal North Bridge, which as a high fixed-span facility eliminates the movable components and risk of malfunction. They have also proposed building a second, two-track Portal South Bridge span as part of the Amtrak Gateway Program, which would double the train capacity along this part of the Northeast Corridor.

Reacting to the FTA decision, Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner said: "Amtrak applauds this landmark accomplishment. This is a major step towards the renewal and expansion of the Northeast Corridor that Amtrak has long advocated for and continues to prioritize."

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

Recommended Stories

Survey: Americans ‘Overwhelming Support’ Public Transit

A survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute for the American Public Transportation Association indicated that 80 percent of those it polled would support using their tax dollars for creating, expanding, and improving public transportation in their community, with a further 74 percent...

July 27, 2018

FRA Puts More Pressure on Railroads to Comply with PTC Requirements

The Federal Railroad Administration is prepared to levy penalties against 13 railroads if they fail to implement positive train control or PTC safety systems by Dec. 31 this year.

July 27, 2018

Study Tracks Growth of Electric Scooters for Urban Mobility

A new study compiled by data platform management firm Populus indicates that the popularity of electric scooters as an urban transportation option continues to increase in major U.S. metropolitan cities.

July 27, 2018

Past Issues

Issue Date: