The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Friday submitted to federal officials a formal request that the Bayonne Bridge "Raise the Roadway" project be considered for expedited review under President Obama’s Executive Order on Permitting and Federal Review, which was issued 24 hours earlier.
The port authority said it believes its request to the U.S. Department of Transportation and to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard is the first to be submitted in the country in response to the President’s newly issued executive order.
Executive Director Pat Foye said the authority and other public agencies across the country have been caught in a web of too much process and bureaucracy for too long. “I applaud President Obama's decision to let common sense rule and to encourage coordination, urgency, and accountability for federal permitting processes at a time when critical infrastructure projects are vital to job creation and economic activity.”
The air draft of the Bayonne Bridge is too low to permit passage on large post-Panamax vessels that are already calling at the four container terminals on the western side of New York Harbor in Staten Island, Port Newark and Port Elizabeth. The bridge’s low air draft will become an even greater hindrance to the growth of the port’s volumes after the opening of the new locks at the Panama Canal in 2014 that will permit even larger ships to transit the canal on their way to ports on the U.S. East Coast.
The port authority has committed $1 billion to raise the air draft of the Bayonne Bridge from 151 feet to 215 feet. This expansion will allow for larger post-Panamax ships to access the region through the Kill Van Kull Channel.
The project is currently undergoing the required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review with the U.S. Coast Guard, the designated lead federal agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Construction on the project is anticipated to begin in early 2013, pending federal and local environmental reviews.