The board of directors of the New Jersey Transit, in a financing partnership with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has agreed to issue $600 million in bonds to help fund a new Portal Bridge.
State officials have said that the bonds mean that New Jersey is fully committed to seeing the project through. Jerry Zaro, the New Jersey trustee on the Gateway Program Development Corporation says that the funds also prove that the state is all-in on the project in more than just money.
“New Jersey is stepping up to demonstrate we have two things: We have local skin in the game and we’re showing a definitive commitment to the world that we are committed to this project,” Zaro told ROI-NJ.
The Portal Bridge is the first step in the new Gateway Project, a tunnel construction project that would update and improve transportation and infrastructure in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. The federal funding for the project, which is estimated to be between $25 billion and $30 billion, has not yet been approved by Washington, D.C., but Zaro believes that New Jersey’s commitment was not meant to send a message to Washington.
He told ROI-NJ, “I think it’s saying that we heard the message and we’re trying to demonstrate in a very cooperative, nonconfrontational way that this project is not about politics,” he said. “There’s no Democrat or Republican way to build a bridge or a tunnel. This is a safety, transportation, infrastructure project that has to be done. We’re trying to demonstrate that we’re being cooperative, but we have to go ahead and get this project done.”
The Portal Bridge will be a new two-track fixed structure, approximately 2.33 miles long, and will have space to accommodate both current and forecasted boat traffic. It will replace the existing two-track bridge, and would eliminate the need for a drawbridge, which interrupts traffic and needs repairs for mechanical failures, causing delays.
The new bridge will allow for a 10% increase in passenger capacity at peak traffic hours, according to NJ Transit officials. According to Dianne Gutirrez-Scaccetti, chair of NJ Transit and commissioner of the NJ Department of Transportation, time is of utmost importance to start and finish the project.
In a statement, she said, “We’re not going to kick the can down the road any longer. The time is long overdue for a new Portal Bridge, which is the foundation of many commuter frustrations. The taxpayers of New Jersey deserve a transportation system which will drive the economy and reliably get them to jobs, schools and recreation.”
Kevin Corbett, executive director of NJ Transit, added that the funding proves NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s plan to improve transportation.
“This funding is proof that Gov. Murphy, NJ Transit and the state of New Jersey are firmly committed to advancing this vital transportation infrastructure project,” he said. “A better tomorrow for NJ Transit starts today. Our customers have suffered far too long from the outdated, unreliable Portal Bridge. A new bridge can’t wait any longer.”
The current Portal Bridge, a railroad drawbridge over the Hackensack River, was built in 1910.
By: Matthew Silkin
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