Date: Jun 22, 2010
Press Release Number: 40-2010
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is fast-tracking a review of environmental issues to help speed modification or replacement of the Bayonne Bridge, effectively creating a double-track process begun last year with a comprehensive ongoing planning analysis of alternatives to address height concerns.
With bigger ships expected to start calling on the region’s port facilities upon expansion of the Panama Canal by mid-decade, the agency is expediting efforts to determine a cost-effective solution to address the low-clearance issues posed by the current height of the span’s vehicular deck.
Today, Port Authority staff issued a request for proposal (RFP) to move the Bayonne Bridge project further forward by seeking nationally known consulting teams to provide technical information on environmental and regulatory issues related to the project. The RFP is now on the Port Authority’s web site, seeking a consultant that will help the agency develop “best practices” for expediting the process to fix the bridge that crosses the Kill Van Kull.
Environmental processes have moved expeditiously in other projects, such as the I-35 bridge replacement in Minnesota and the Driscoll Bridge in New Jersey, and the Port Authority is seeking information on how those efforts are applicable to the Bayonne Bridge.
The Port Authority shares the concerns of Governor Chris Christie, the New Jersey Legislature and the shipping industry regarding the Bayonne Bridge air draft constraints and is committed to identifying a cost-effective solution. Last summer, the agency began a $10 million planning analysis to determine how best to address navigational issues posed by the larger ships expected to use the region’s port after the Panama Canal expands by mid-decade.
Options include modifying the existing bridge by jacking the current 151-foot road deck, creating a lift-bridge mechanism at the center of the span or building a new taller bridge or tunnel below the river.
“We are fully committed to maintaining and expanding the region’s vital port industry and addressing the Bayonne Bridge issue is a key element of that goal,’’ said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia. “We will identify a solution that will enable our port to maintain its nationally competitive position.”
“This is the next logical step in our effort to develop a cost-effective way to address the Bayonne Bridge issue,” said Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward.
“Gov. Christie has said fixing the Bayonne Bridge height problem is one of his top priorities and we will heed his request,’’ said Bill Baroni, the agency’s deputy executive director. “Port Newark and Port Elizabeth are critical to the region’s economic growth and success. There is no greater priority than fixing the height issue and protecting Ports Newark and Elizabeth.”
Alternatives for fixing the bridge will narrow in the coming months and agency officials also will continue seeking project funding sources from the federal government, state and private sources.
Undertaking an environmental alternatives’ analysis will help prepare a timeline for tackling environmental issues so the project will be ready to go when the funding is identified and ready.
The environmental consultant chosen will develop ways to expedite the environmental review process, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, and other applicable regulations.
While the bridge’s long-term future remains to be determined, the agency is mindful that the safety of those driving across the span remains paramount. Thus, Port Authority commissioners also authorized spending $1.7 million to keep the structure in a state-of-good-repair.
This funding will help develop plans for a structural steel rehabilitation project to ensure the span’s integrity.
Agency officials have held numerous meetings with major stakeholders in recent months to address the Bayonne Bridge issue, and will continue to do so in the coming months. The ongoing planning analysis will be completed by year’s end.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Ron Marsico, 212 435-7777
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates many of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. They include John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Stewart International and Teterboro airports; AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark; the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the three bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey; the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rapid-transit system; Port Newark; the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal; the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island; the Brooklyn Piers/Red Hook Container Terminal; and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. The agency also owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan