The Bayonne Bridge will have enough clearance by the fall of 2015 to handle larger post-Panamax ships that will start calling East Coast ports through the expanded Panama Canal, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said on Wednesday.
The timeline for raising the bridge’s height has been moved up by six months, and the opening of the new locks has been delayed by at least six months, enabling the port authority to meet the deadline for completing the project.
“We have been successful in cutting six months from our initial construction schedule,” Port Authority Chairman David Samson said at a teleconference with media. He said the project has also been submitted for consideration for expedited review under President Obama’s Executive Order on Permitting and Federal Review.
One of the main reasons the project will be completed in time for the opening of the new Panama Canal locks is that their completion has been delayed.
“Construction delays will be pushing back completion of the project into 2015, and in a recent interview on June 29 with the Panama Television station Telemetro, the administrator of the Canal (Albert Aleman Zubieta) said that upon completion of the canal there will be at least another eight months of testing and trials before the canal will be fully operational,” Samson said. “So we’re going to complete this project and be open for ships coming through the canal when they’re ready to come through after their testing and trials.”
The bridge’s current 151-foot air draft prohibits some post-Panamax ships from passing underneath on their way to four of the port’s biggest container terminals on the west side of the harbor. The port authority plans to raise the air draft 61 feet by lifting the four-lane highway across the bridge, but first the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies must complete a study of the project’s impact on the environment and on the bridge’s historic structure.
The port agency has prequalified five engineering groups to bid on the $1 billion project so the process can be speeded up: American Bridge (American Bridge, Tutor-Perini and Traylor Brothers); Bayonne Bridge Builders Joint Venture (Schiavone Construction, Granite Construction Northeast, Yonkers Contracting and Defoe); CRJD Bayonne (Conti Enterprises, J.H.Reid General Contractor, Judlau Contracting and DYWIDAG-Systems International USA); Flatiron/EE Cruz/Tully, A Joint Venture (Flatiron Constructors, E.E. Cruz and Co., Tully Construction); and Skanska Koch – Kiewit JV Team (Skanska Koch and Kiewit Infrastructure).
“Completing the project ahead of schedule, as we now know will happen, will ensure that the Port of New York and New Jersey remains the region’s primary economic engine,” Samson said. “Competition is fierce among all the ports on the East Coast. All of them are racing to prepare themselves for the widening of the Panama Canal. Many are making infrastructure improvements, and that’s why it’s important for us to get their project done ahead of the Panama Canal.”
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