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Large Turnout for North Portal Bridge Ground Breaking

Aug 02, 2022
Portal Bridge NJ Transit Amtrak Kearny NJ

On Monday, August 1, 2022, US Transporation  Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled through Harrison down Harrison Avenue to a parking lot in Kearny within view of a one hundred and eleven-year-old bridge called the Portal Bridge to conduct a groundbreaking ceremony of a new Portal Bridge that undoubtedly will never be in service as long as its namesake.  Buttigieg was joined by United States Senator Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Governor Phil Murphy, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, and other Federal and State elected officials. Governor Murphy was praised by other speakers for his leadership in reviving the Gateway Program including the replacement of the Portal Bridge.

Senator Bob Menedez stated on his Facebook page, “Today’s groundbreaking of the New Portal North Bridge is about so much more than just concrete and steel. It's about a mom or dad getting home from work in time to make a child’s recital or little league game. It’s about spending more time with family and less in traffic. It was a long time coming but, this is a great day for NJ commuters.”

Kearny’s Mayor Alberto Santos stated on his Facebook page the following: Today was the groundbreaking for the new Portal Bridge in Kearny which serves the Northeast rail corridor. The existing 111-year-old bridge (built in the Teddy Roosevelt administration) has to be swung open for boat traffic, often resulting in delays in rail service, especially when the bridge doesn’t swing back fully and workers with sledgehammers (for real!) have to slam it back into place. Partially funded by the bipartisan infrastructure investment authorized by Congress, the new bridge will be a key piece of the Gateway Program that includes the building of a new rail tunnel between NJ and NYC. Replacing the Portal Bridge has been talked about for many years and now it’s finally happening. Thank you to Secretary Buttigieg, Governor Murphy, Senators Menendez and Booker, and NJ’s Congressional delegation for getting this project … on track!

President of NJ Transit Kevin Corbett stated that the New Jersey contribution to the Gateway Project is 600 Million.  That is not just for the new North Portal Bridge but for the new bridge and two new tunnels into New York City.

The current Portal Bridge according to Senator Bob Menendez fails to properly close 1 out of every 7 times it opens up and a railroad crew has to go out and use sledgehammers to assist in getting it closed.  In addition, trains are forced to slow down because of train speed restrictions due to the age of the bridge.

The New North Portal Bridge will be built high enough that it does not need to open for boat traffic to travel below it. So long as the ship is no taller than 50 feet.

Senator Menendez stated that “the old span will finally be retired and torn down replaced by a brand new bridge that will take its place”.  It is not clear from renderings currently available online whether the new North Portal Bridge will be located as its name states North of the current Portal Bridge.  Although Senator Menendez stated that the tearing down of the current Portal Bridge “cannot come quick enough”, we doubt that it will be torn down before the new North Portal Bridge is in operation. So it can be fairly assumed the North Portal Bridge won't be in the same location as the current Portal Bridge.

What do you think about the new North Portal Bridge project?  Would it make sense to keep the current Portal Bridge and rehab it so it closes properly and use it as an emergency bridge in case a third track is needed due to repairs to the new North Portal Bridge or another emergency? 

A lot was made of having to sledgehammer it closed 1 out of 7 times the bridge opened.  The bridge is nearly 112 years old.  What infrastructure built since 1970 will last over 100 years?  Maybe we should ask some of the Labor Union and Construction officials that question. 

The other question that comes to mind is if it is so bad a bridge why did it take so long to finally get approvals to replace it?  Have we been playing with fire to delay replacing the Portal Bridge risking disruption of train services from Boston to Florida?  We think it is wise to talk about rebuilding the bridge to its glory years so we keep the bridge’s morale up while we build its replacement.

The new North Portal Bridge is supposed to take four years to complete.  Other parts of the Gateway Program will take longer.

Related Article: Check out Portal Bridge Event: Who's Who of Federal Government. Although the title says Federal Government the article actually lists Federal, State, and local government officials.

What are your thoughts on the Portal Bridge?  What’s your opinion on whether the project is worth 600 Million Dollars from State of New Jersey alone? Let Us Know Your Thoughts on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now.

Photo Credits: Amtrak (cover), Senator Bob Menendez.