At the time the Bayonne Bridge opened in 1931, it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world. But at only 151 feet high, it is too low for the much larger container ships destined for East Coast ports once the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015.
And so, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plans to spend more than $1 billion to raise the bridge connecting New Jersey with Staten Island by 64 feet, perhaps the most dramatic of the large-scale infrastructure projects either completed or under way as ports such as Boston’s try to stay ahead of developments in world shipping.
Ports in Baltimore and Norfolk have already completed their dredging projects. Philadelphia plans to spend $334 million on theirs; Savannah, $652 million; and Jacksonville, $733 million.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in September recommended Congress authorize $300 million to dredge Boston harbor’s main channel and anchorage from 40 feet to 47 feet and the outer entrance of the harbor to 51 feet. That’s about 12 million cubic yards of dredged material and rock that has to be moved — enough to fill the New England Patriot’s stadium in Foxboro 12 times over.
The Army Corps of Engineers says dredging would return $9 in economic activity for every dollar invested. More than 34,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in economic benefits are tied to port activity as about 1,600 New England companies move $11.4 billion in goods through the Port of Boston.
One of Boston’s greatest strengths is the diversity of its work force and the opportunities the city has always been able to provide to professionals and working people alike. Investments in dredging seem a small price to pay for preserving a part of our heritage and blue-collar jobs.
Thomas P. Glynn is CEO and Executive Director of Massport.