Bridge Toll

What's the biggest infrastructure challenge at the Port of New York and New Jersey? Hands down, it's the Bayonne Bridge, but a solution won't come easily, quickly or cheaply.

The bridge, which spans the Kill van Kull waterway leading to container terminals at Port Newark-Elizabeth and on Staten Island, has a 151-foot vertical clearance that's too low for the newest generation of container ships.

With the Panama Canal's larger locks scheduled to open in about five years, carriers are growing antsy about the port's plans to address the bridge clearance problem. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has anted up $10 million to evaluate options in a study that will take a year or a year and a half.

Those options include raising the roadway within the bridge's existing arch, jacking up the entire structure, building a replacement bridge, or (the least likely option) replacing the bridge with a tunnel. All of the proposed solutions would be costly and would require years of planning and construction, but there's a consensus in the port that something needs to be done.

The port authority has invested more than $1.8 billion in container-cargo infrastructure since 2000, and carriers and terminals also have sunk large sums into the port. For those investments to yield the proper return, one way or another the Bayonne Bridge problem must be addressed.

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