The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a request for proposals from engineering companies and consulting firms to provide technical information on the environmental and regulatory issues related to modifying or replacing the Bayonne Bridge.
With bigger ships expected to start calling on the region’s port facilities upon expansion of the Panama Canal by the end of 2014, the port authority said Tuesday it is accelerating efforts to determine a cost-effective solution to address the low air draft of the current height of the span’s vehicle deck.
The RFP, which is now on the port authority’s Web site, seeks a consulting or engineering firm that will help the agency develop “best practices” for expediting the process to fix the bridge that crosses the Kill Van Kull between New Jersey and Staten Island and will block access to the port’s four main container terminals by large ships that can’t pass under it.
The port authority said it wants to speed up a review of environmental issues to help expedite the 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.
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.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated in a study issued last September that it will cost anywhere from $1.5 billion to $3.3 billion to build any of the four alternatives it studied and take 10 to 15 years to complete.
Options include modifying the existing bridge by jacking up the current 151-foot road deck, creating a lift-bridge mechanism at the center of the span, building a new taller bridge or building a tunnel below the river.
The options for fixing the bridge will be narrowed down in the coming months and port authority 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 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.
-- Contact Peter T. Leach at email@example.com.