The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, racing to elevate the Bayonne Bridge, is “working towards a date of 2016” to complete the complex engineering project and clear a path for larger ships into the port, an agency source said.
But factors such as a required environmental review make it difficult to set a firm date for completion at this point, the port said.
Following an update provided to port stakeholders June 10, the port said it is proceeding at an “historic pace” to raise the span of the 1930s-era bridge from 151 feet to 215 feet so the bridge can accommodate larger container ships expected to begin calling at East Coast ports following the scheduled 2014 expansion of the Panama Canal.
“The Port Authority continues to move this critical project forward at an historic pace to the benefit of the region,” the port said in a statement after the June 10 meeting. “There are a number of factors, including the required environmental review process, that will impact the project. An update was provided on the concurrent tracks the agency is aggressively advancing to expedite the project timeline.”
The inability of larger container ships to clear the bridge has been an increasingly source of concern for the East Coast’s largest port, resulting in the port setting aside $1 billion “to solve the problem,” as the port said in summary of the project. Ships must take down antennas and adjust schedules to ensure they have adequate clearance, but many ships pass under the bridge with only a few feet to spare.
The plan calls for elevating the span of the bridge in sections to allow for continuous flow of traffic.
The port has a web site devoted to the project, including a video illustrating the planned project. The port notes 12 percent of U.S. container traffic passes under the bridge and the Army Corps of Engineers estimates raising the span will produce a $3.3 billion national benefit.
The 64 additional feet of air draft, the approaching completion of the port’s 50-foot deepening project, enhancements to its intermodal rail capability, and its location at the center of one of the world’s largest and wealthiest metropolitan areas, will all but ensure the port’s long term status as the main East Coast gateway for containerized trade.