$1.3B rail bridge project should smooth NJ Transit rides to N.Y.C.

by The Star-Ledger Continuous News Desk
Friday January 02, 2009, 5:57 AM

The Federal Railroad Administration approved the $1.3 billion project to replace a 100-year-old railroad bridge in the Jersey Meadows that will eliminate a bottlenecks and provide capacity for more NJ Transit rail lines to and from New York, according to a report in the Asbury Park Press.

The report said the move also paves the way, in conjunction with the proposed second Hudson River tunnel, will provide a one-seat ride in and out of Manhattan for riders who now have to change trains in Newark.The existing bridge over the Hackensack River, located southwest of the Secaucus Junction station, will be replaced with a three-track fixed northbound bridge, a two-track moveable bridge built on a new southern alignment and tracks to eliminate crossover movements.

Approval Given for New Jersey Rail Bridges

By KEN BELSON, New York Times
Published: December 31, 2008

In a move that could unlock one of the thorniest railroad bottlenecks in the Northeast, the Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday signed off on a plan to replace the almost century-old Portal Bridge that spans the Hackensack River.

The administration approved the final environmental impact statement that clears the way for Amtrak to spend $1.34 billion to build a three-track bridge just north of the Portal Bridge and a two-track span south of the bridge. The project is expected to be completed by 2014. Once the new bridges are finished, the Portal Bridge, built in 1910, will be dismantled.

Even the slightest slowdown can interfere with the daily routines of the approximately 150,000 New Jersey Transit passengers who cross the bridge each weekday. Nearly 400 New Jersey Transit trains and 103 Amtrak trains use the bridge daily. Because of its structure, trains can travel only 60 miles per hour on the bridge, compared with 90 miles per hour on tracks nearby.

The 961-foot Portal Bridge, which sits on a turntable, has only two tracks. And because its lowest beams are only 23 feet above the river, the bridge must swing open almost daily to allow commercial boats to pass. That delays trains traveling between Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan and all points west during nonpeak hours on average about 20 minutes.

Amtrak, which owns and operates the bridge, also spends millions of dollars each year to keep it working. In 2005, for instance, the railroad spent nearly $5 million to repair damage caused by a fire at the bridge, which connects Secaucus and Kearny, N.J., on the Northeast Corridor line.

Richard R. Sarles, executive director of New Jersey Transit, said the new northern bridge will be high enough that all maritime traffic will clear it, adding, “Maybe a handful of boats will necessitate the southern bridge to open a few times a year.”

Mr. Sarles said that the two bridges were designed to line up with tracks leading to the new rail tunnel under the Hudson River that New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are planning. The tunnel is expected to cost nearly $9 billion, but the authority is still seeking about $3 billion in federal financing.

Once the new bridges and tunnel are completed, New Jersey Transit will be able to add more trains on the Morris and Essex, North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley lines.

The projects will also mean that passengers on the Main Line, Bergen County Line, Pascack Valley Line and Port Jervis Line will no longer have to transfer at Secaucus Junction to get to Penn Station in Manhattan.

May 12, 2005 Portal Bridge Fire

April 15, 2003 Pennsylvania Federation's Warning of Potential Disaster on Portal Bridge, Safety of Passengers and Workers at Risk!


Pennsylvania Federation BMWED-IBT