Ground breaks on historic $1.5bn railway bridge in New Jersey

An end to the disruption of “countless dinners” and “interminable commutes” was in sight this week with the official groundbreaking on 1 August of the $1.56bn Portal North railway bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey.

When construction by Skanska and joint venture partner Traylor Bros PNB is complete in around five and a half years, the 2.4-mile span will replace the 110-year-old Portal swing bridge, which is blamed for choking rail capacity along Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor.

Funded by the US Department of Transportation, the states of New Jersey and New York, and Amtrak, the new bridge will carry two tracks over a fixed span 50 feet above the water to let boats pass underneath.

“History is happening today,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., whose congressional district lies on one side of the bridge. “For years, New Jerseyans have waited patiently for relief at the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack. Because of congestion and delays at this chokepoint, countless dinners, outings, and hours of family time have been sapped by interminable commutes.”

In October 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and NJ Transit approved the $1,559,993,000 contract for Skanska and Traylor Bros, the biggest single construction award in NJ Transit’s history.

Work includes construction of retaining walls, deep foundations, concrete piers, structural steel bridge spans, rail systems and demolition of the existing bridge. Notice to Proceed came in April this year.

“This project turns the Portal North Bridge from a chokepoint to an access point. It modernises the way that people and goods get to and from this region that is responsible for 20% of America’s economic product every year,” said US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, adding: “We are entering into a true infrastructure decade.”

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