BAYONNE, NJ - Mayor Jimmy Davis welcomed state and federal officials to Collins Park on Friday to celebrate the rededication of the Bayonne Bridge. The ceremony, led by Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, marked the completion of the six-year $1.7 billion project that raised the bridge’s roadway to allow for the world’s largest container ships to call on terminals in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The project, the likes of which several officials said had never been undertaken in the United States before, added an additional 64 feet of clearance, critical in efforts to allow the world’s largest container ships to call on terminals in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

“Today’s completion of this major $1.7 billion project is a testament to the expertise and creativity of this generation’s engineers and is further evidence of the agency’s nearly 100-year-old legacy as the builder of great transportation projects,” O’Toole said with Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton adding that coupled with the Port Authority’s $1.5 billion investment to build a new Goethals Bridge, the project is “indicative of this agency’s priority to bring its transportation infrastructure up to state-of-the-art global standards.”

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The new 1,651 foot-long, four-lane roadway also benefits commuters and other drivers, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, with the addition of 12-foot-wide, 8,400-foot long shared use pedestrian/bicycle path providing them with an environmentally friendly mode of travel between Bayonne and Staten Island, NY, officials said.

Calling the project a “game changer,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that supporting infrastructure projects like the Bayonne Bridge can’t be a “passing interest,” adding that the successful completion is a testament to what can be done when regional cooperation and collaboration are fostered. “We didn’t just raise a steel bridge 64 feet; we raised the bar on what can be done when we work together.”

“Deepening our port, expanding our capacity for trade and raising the Bayonne Bridge took years of cooperation between many local, state and federal players,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who worked with Congressman Sires and the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg on behalf of the New Jersey delegation to convince President Obama to give the Bayonne Bridge project expedited status. “This project,” Menendez said, was also about “raising the economic prospects of our state and region.”

“When we invest in infrastructure we build a stronger economy for all of us.”

Bayonne’s two House Members were also present with Congressman Albio Sires saying that the completion of the “engineering wonder,” has been a priority for him since he was first elected in 2006, and one that is a “triumph for Bayonne and the entire region.”

While most passersby and residents don’t think of the New Jersey’s ports on a daily basis, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. said, “they’d recognize it if they started failing,” something that would have been possible if the project wasn’t completed.

“The Bayonne Bridge does more than connect New Jersey to Staten Island; it connects people to jobs,” said New Jersey State Senator Sandra Cunningham. “Thousands of real, quality jobs in our surrounding communities, from the investments companies make here because of our infrastructure connects them to markets and consumers.”

Thanking his fellow residents and neighbors for their “patience and understanding” throughout the project, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti shared that while the project “has been a challenge” it is one that will “provide a greater good for our community.”

“The crossing and the new shared use path will be a lasting benefit for all of us.”

Also sharing a local perspective on the impact of the project was Davis himself who said that when he woke up on Friday knowing the construction was over no one couldn’t “chisel the smile off (his) face.

When he was first elected in 2014, just as the impact of the project was being felt in the adjacent neighborhood, the relationship between local residents and the Port Authority was like the “Hatfields and McKoys.”

While they could have continued to fight the project, Davis said, his Administration focused on bringing everyone together, and the results speak for themselves.

With the dedication ceremony over and dignitaries scattering, TAPinto Bayonne found Geroge Nicoll and Dr. Margaret Engel whose home sits a strong stone’s throw from the bridge.

Engel, who grew up in the same home recalled walking across the old structure as a child, as well as the days when work in the area caused ceilings to fall and the foundation to crack. “You can’t stop progress,” she recalled her father saying, adding that he made the repairs and went about life.

Saying she can’t wait to walk on the new footpaths Engel offered the project as a metaphor for an evolving city. “New construction, new blood, new vision,” is what she said is coming to Bayonne, sharing a hope that long-time residents and community leaders will act as mentors to new residents so that together they can “build for the future.”

While complimentary of the speeches by the politicians that took their turns at the microphones it was the engineers and workers that completed the work who the couple saved their highest praise for. “They were out there in the wind and rain, morning, noon, and night,” Engel concluded.

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