By Briana Vannozzi
Most of the recent announcements on the Bayonne Bridge project have drawn the ire of motorists and neighbors living in its shadows. Road closures, delays, construction dust coating homes and cars. But today was a rarity of sorts. An opportunity for government officials to show the massive construction project that will raise the roadway clearance 64 feet isn’t just on budget, but six months ahead of schedule.
“By June 30 the $1.6 billion Bayonne Bridge ‘Raise the Roadway‘ project will have progressed to the point where the world’s largest, most efficient and environmentally-friendly container vessels will be able to travel beneath it to reach the East Coast’s busiest port terminals in Newark and Elizabeth after passing through the recently widened Panama Canal or the Suez Canal,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie and leaders from the Port Authority made the announcement at Port Elizabeth’s Maher Terminals. Port Newark Harbor is the second busiest in the nation. And raising the bridge was considered a major obstacle to accommodating larger ships coming through the bay.
Christie says the pressure’s been on to finish this project because once complete it’ll allow two times the amount of cargo to be shipped in and ultimately keep the port’s competitive edge.
“Three hundred thirty six thousand people are either directly or indirectly employed, representing about $21.2 billion in annual wages and billions of dollars in economic activity because of what happens right around us,” Christie said.
In February, a newer elevated roadway opened to traffic through the existing arch bridge while traffic flow remained open on the lower span. The entire bridge won’t be complete until 2019 with four 12-foot wide lanes in each direction and a shared-use pedestrian bicycle path.
“It will be amongst the most modern bridges anywhere in the United States,” Christie said.
The head of Port Authority’s capital projects says it was a slow road because of the engineering hurdles keeping a bridge open while working on it. Come June 30, the public will get to see if it paid off.
“There may be some operational things that we have to put in place, but we’ll be able to take the day that bridge is done up to the 18,000 TEU vessels. We’ll probably start out with 14,000 and then work our way up as more ships start transiting on the East Coast,” said Molly Campbell, director of the port department for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Things are happening. There’s a lot of positive energy. You can taste and you can feel a special job and people know this is history in the making,” said Steven Plate, chairman of capital projects for the Port Authority.