Crews break ground on Portal Bridge Project in Kearny

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Crews broke ground Friday in the town of Kearny on the Portal Bridge Project, which aims to resolve delays for New Jersey Transit service.

Officials say that 450 trains and thousands of people travel over the Portal North Bridge every day. The bridge is over 100 years old, and officials say that it is in need of an update.

“What was cutting edge in 1910 isn’t cutting edge in 2017,” says U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

Menendez was joined by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Chris Christie and the heads of Amtrak and NJ Transit to participate in the ground breaking ceremony.

The Portal Bridge Project plan calls for doubling the height of the bridge, which currently swings open to make way for marine traffic below. Officials say that this process often causes major delays and disruptions on the entire Northeast Corridor.

“When the Portal Bridge opens for the ships below, there is a 15 percent chance of a mechanic or electrical failure while locking it back into place,” Menendez says.

The Portal Bridge Project is part of the larger Gateway Tunnel Project, which is expected to improve infrastructure and transit travel between New York and New Jersey. Officials say that is it the first and one of the most important steps towards Gateway.

“The Gateway Tunnel, without the Portal Bridge, is a useless exercise,” Christie says.

“If we don’t do it, economic Armageddon,” says Booker. “If we do do it, economic prosperity.”

The cost of building the new bridge and destroying the old one is expected to be about $1.5 billion. The bridge is expected to be complete in the summer of 2024. Early construction work will involve realigning a transmission pole, constructing a pier and a retaining wall. About two miles-worth of tracks leading to and from the bridge will be raised to accommodate the higher structure.

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