Port Authority officials announced that starting Monday morning drivers crossing the bridge between Bayonne and Staten Island will get double the road capacity. Two lanes will become four lanes courtesy of a complex, $1.7 billion raising and rehab project that’s finally nearing completion. But what does that mean for motorists?
“Modern, 12-foot-wide lanes. And it will, in addition, it will have shoulders for places where disabled vehicles can pull off instead of causing enormous backups,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“In addition to providing that improvement to our customers, we will be opening some on and off ramps to improve local access to the bridge — both in New York and New Jersey,” said Roger Prince, Port Authority’s deputy director of tunnels and bridges.
The Port Authority’s proud of its engineering achievement, raising the obsolete, 90-year-old span’s roadbed by 64 feet. It’s just high enough to let gigantic, modern Panamax container ships squeeze by underneath. The freighters can carry up to 18,000 containers, boosting cargo and commerce at the ports and beyond.
“This is a milestone in a marathon, but we’re finally down to the stretch run,” Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said. “The end is near. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. So we’re all in a good mood right now and everything’s going to work well.”
The local mood wasn’t always good, especially for residents living under the bridge. Construction occurred without closing the span, and often at night. Paint chips rained into people’s yards, where cracks and floods dogged homeowners, not to mention the piercing noise.
“In the beginning it was kind of a nightmare — noise 24/7. I mean, they worked at night,” Bayonne Council President Sharon Nadrowski said.
Nadrowski says the Port Authority bought sound-resistant windows and air conditioners for her and other impacted residents.
“The Port Authority has been great and accommodating to us, so we’re glad to see you go, and see our bridge, and traffic, and more on and off ramps opened up again,” she said.
A 10 foot-wide pedestrian walkway will open later. Meanwhile, Donald Trump on Wednesday raised hopes for the Port Authority’s pivotal Gateway project, telling reporters he’s now “open-minded” about spending federal funds on the massive $30 billion Portal Bridge and Hudson Train Tunnel project. This, after vowing to withhold federal dollars during a political duel with Democrats.
“We have the money set aside,” Trump said, “but we have not decided to use it yet. It’s a very expensive project, very expensive, so we have to see what they’re doing. It’s got to be approved by us.”
“To the extent that the president is receptive to it, that would be a wonderful development and we would look forward to working with the federal government to actually get this construction project underway,” Cotton said.
“We’re happy with the change of tone, a little bit. We’re happy that the dialogue’s continuing,” said Port Authority Chair Kevin O’Toole.
“Let’s get together. Let’s make it happen,” Sen. Bob Menendez said. “I’ll call it the Trump Tunnel, I don’t care. I just want to get it done.”
Contractors will put the finishing touches on the Bayonne span by spring. The rehab is expected to last 100 years.