Posts Tagged ‘Portal Bridge’

FTA Changes Matching Fund Rule

February 19, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration has made a significant rule change for projects seeking to receive Capital Investment Grant funding.

The agency no longer will prohibit grant recipients from using CIG grants as part of their local funding match when applying for grants.

That prohibition, which had been imposed during the Trump administration, has been criticized for establishing barriers to certain public transit projects.

In a letter sent this past week the FTA said it will now “rely on the CIG statutory framework”to ensure that projects have met federal transportation law, the Major Capital Investment Projects Final rule, and the CIG Final Interim Policy Guidance published in June 2016.

Some congressional Democrats had accused the Trump administration of using funding policies to delay or thwart such Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure projects as replacing the century old Portal Bridge and constructing a new tunnel linking New York City and New Jersey under the Hudson River, also known as the Gateway project.

Under the new FTA policy, states will be allowed to use federal loans to cover their share of a project’s costs, something New York and New Jersey had planned to do with their federal loans in order to meet their 50 percent match of funding for the Gateway project.

Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao had in May 2018 prohibited states from using federal loans as part of their project match funding.

Although Congress a year later prohibited USDOT from doing that, the agency continued to maintain its policy of banning use of loans for state matching funds.

Portal Bridge Project Gets FTA Grant

January 13, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration has authorized New Jersey Transit to receive a $766.5 million grant for the $1.888 billion two-track, fixed-span Portal North Bridge Project.

The funding will be used to replace the 110-year-old Portal Bridge across the Hackensack River in the New Jersey Meadowlands on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Highway Administration is providing $57 million toward the project, NJ Transit will contribute $811 million and Amtrak will provide $261.5 million.

The two passenger operators will share operating and maintenance costs for the bridge.

The federal money is coming from the Capital Investments Grants Program.

Officials said the start of construction is still a year away.

N.J. Transit, Amtrak Agree on Portal Bridge Plan

July 29, 2020

An artist drawing of what the new Portal Bridge will look like upon completion

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit have reached an agreement to begin construction of a new Portal Bridge in early 2021.

The two will solicit bids from construction companies late this year or early next year.

The bridge spans the Hackensack River and is 110 years old. The swing span structure has been a frequent source of delay to trains on the Northeast Corridor due it malfunctioning.

The bridge opens to allow marine traffic to pass, which delays Amtrak and NJ Transit trains.

But delays also have occurred when the bridge became stuck in the open position because it fails to lock into place.

Amtrak owns the bridge, which is located between Kearny and Secaucus, New Jersey.

The U.S. Coast Guard has sought to minimize delays by imposing periods when the bridge may not be opened for marine traffic during heavy train travel periods.

FTA Commits to Funding New Portal Bridge

June 23, 2020

New Jersey officials say they have received notice from the Federal Transit Administration of a commitment to fund nearly half the project to replace the Portal Bridge on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The bridge over the Hackensack River is used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains alike.

State officials said the engineering phase of the project can now begin and will be fully funded by federal money.

The FTA wrote recently to NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett that the federal agency has elevated the $1.8 billion project to the engineering phase, making it eligible for $766.5 in federal funding. The letter also said NJ Transit must submit a revised financial plan and show it could cover a cost increase or funding shortfall.

New Jersey and Amtrak have agreed to their respective funding shares for the project.

The century-old bridge long has been a traffic chokepoint due to frequent mechanical failures.

FRA Awards Funding to Replace Portal Bridge

May 27, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration will provide $91.5 million to help replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The bridge is used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains and crosses the Hackensack River at a long-time corridor choke point.

The current structure is a swing bridge that has often failed to lock into place when closed after being opened to allow passage of marine traffic.

The U.S. Coast Guard has mitigated some of the problem by limiting the times when the bridge is permitted to open.

The new bridge is expected to be high enough above the river so that it will not need to be opened.

The bridge is located between Kearny and Secaucus, New Jersey.

Portal Bridge Rules to Become Permanent

February 22, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard will make permanent next month a practice of keeping the Portal Bridge on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor closed during rush hour.

The 110-year-old structure over the Hackensack River in New Jersey has been prone to malfunctions after being opened for marine traffic, which has resulted in delays to Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.

Last year the Coast Guard began keeping the swing bridge closed between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on an interim basis with limited exceptions.

Replacement of the bridge is a key component of the Gateway Plan that would make other infrastructure improvements including construction of new tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City.

Portal Bridge Gets Favorable FTA Rating

February 14, 2020

The Federal Transit Agency this week gave a favorable rating to one component of the Gateway Project in the Northeast Corridor but continued to rate low the other major component.

The replacement of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey received a “medium high” rating from FTA while construction of a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey continues to receive a “medium low” rating.

It means that the $1.8 billion bridge replacement plan can move to the engineering phase.

The bridge spans the Hackensack River and sometimes fails to lock into place after opening, which delays Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.

New reports have indicated that the $11 billion tunnel project continues to languish due to the assertion of the federal government that the project is not receiving enough local funding.

The “medium low” priority rating means the tunnel project continues to be ineligible for federal funds.

Portal Bridge to Remain Closed During Rush Hours

October 13, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to ban opening of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey on the Northeast Corridor during morning and evening rush hours.

The move will lessen the chances that the 110-year-old bridge will be stuck in the open position and delay thousands of commuters.

An average of a train every two minutes crosses the bridge during rush hours. It is used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

Last March the Coast Guard implemented a six-month ban on opening the bridge during rush hours on a trial basis.

Officials said the practice is now permanent after the trial found no delays being reported.

New Jersey officials want to replace the bridge and a $1.5 billion project to do so is part of the Gateway Project that also included other improvements to the Northeast Corridor between New Jersey and New York City.

However, that project has been stalled by political fighting over the federal government share of the funding.

States to Form Gateway Commission

June 24, 2019

New Jersey and New York are expected to approve legislation setting up a body that would oversee passenger rail projects affect the two states.

The proposed Gateway Development Commission would be similar in structure and purpose as the existing Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which is the agency currently overseeing planning, financing, and construction of the critical pieces of the Gateway Project.

This included the proposed new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the new agency will serve as a vehicle to to receive federal funding for the Gateway tunnel.

In the meantime, Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory told a Congressional committee that his agency is continuing its environmental review of the Gateway project.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Batory said the FRA has finished 95 environmental review steps but has 27 yet to be completed.

“Does that mean another year? I don’t know,” Batory said.

Critic have accused the Trump Administration of slow walking the funding proposals for the Gateway project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has called for the state and local governments to pay more for it because it is largely a “local project.”

Some observers have noted that the Gateway project has become a pawn in a feud between Trump and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)

Members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have described Gateway as a critical transportation corridor, saying that if existing antiquated tunnels fail that the reduced rail traffic would have negative repercussions for the U.S. economy.

NJ Portal Bridge Won’t Open During Peak Rail Traffic

March 23, 2019

New rules implemented on March 14 by the U.S. Coast Guard will allow the Portal Bridge in New Jersey on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to remain closed during peak travel hours.

The rules apply between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The change was made to avoid disrupting rail service for thousands of New Jersey Transit commuters and Amtrak passengers.

Amtrak and New Jersey transportation policy makers are seeking to replace the 111-year-old bridge, which spans the Hackensack River and is prone to failures when being opened or closed.

Operators have sometimes been unable to lock the bridge back into place after it has opened.

Replacement of the bridge is projected to cost $1.5 billion, but has been held up by a political fight between the state and federal transportation officials.