TRANSPORTATION

Restrictions on Portal Bridge boat traffic will be made permanent

BY Julie Daurio, Associate Producer |

A temporary fix for an ongoing commuter woe has been extended.

In an effort to keep trains moving along the Northeast Corridor, the U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to make permanent a ban on rush hour marine traffic under the aging Portal Bridge.

The 109-year-old span over the Hackensack River must pivot open to allow boats through, sometimes getting stuck and causing a cascade of delays during rush hour as crews work to close it.

The Coast Guard first agreed to the ban at Sen. Bob Menendez’s request in March.

RELATED: Portal Bridge won’t open during rush hour, giving commuters a reprieve

Under the ban, boat traffic is halted between 5 and 10 a.m. and from 3 to 8 p.m.

The Coast Guard will extend the restrictions through Jan. 8, 2020 while it completes a formal rulemaking process to put the permanent ban in place.

But Menendez says it’s by no means an end to the problem.

“While a permanent rush hour ban will alleviate pressure on the Portal Bridge and restore some reliability to the system, riders will never truly have peace of mind and faith in our rail system until the century-old, oft-malfunctioning span is replaced and a new Hudson rail tunnel built. We are sitting on a transportation ticking time bomb and must move forward on Gateway without further delay,” he said in a statement.

The plan for a new Portal Bridge, which is a key component of the Gateway project, carries a $1.7 billion price tag.

While New Jersey officials say the state has committed $600 million to the project, the Trump administration has not yet dedicated any federal matching funds.

RELATED: NJ Transit revises financial plan for Portal North Bridge