SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Department of Transportation on Friday announced that the Portal North Bridge replacement—a key component of the broader Gateway Project that includes building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel—has officially moved forward into the engineering phase of the program.

The existing Portal North Bridge is 110 years old, badly in need of repair, and a major source of delays for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains running between New Jersey and New York. Trains crossing the bridge over the Hackensack River must slow down due to its weak structural integrity, and when it opens for maritime traffic to pass it sometimes fails to close because of aging mechanical components, disrupting rail traffic up and down the northeast corridor.

Owned and operated by Amtrak as part of the Northeast Corridor, and used by NJ Transit, the span between Secaucus and Kearny carries between 150,000 and 200,000 passengers per day on approximately 450 daily trains, an average of one train every six minutes over a 24-hour period. Trains carrying commuters from Somerville and other towns along the Raritan Valley line cross over the span several times a day after passing through Newark Penn Station

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In February, the Federal Transit Administration announced that it upgraded its rating for the Portal North Bridge replacement project to medium-high, making the project eligible to enter the engineering phase and take it one step closer to a federal full funding agreement. 

NJ Transit had requested approximately $800 million in CIG funds to complete the estimated $1.8 billion bridge replacement project. In May, the Federal Railroad Administration announced over $91.5 million in funding to advance replacement of the Portal Bridge and make other upgrades to improve service along the Northeast Corridor

The two-track replacement bridge, known as Portal North Bridge, is designed as a high-level, fixed-span bridge, eliminating the movable components and risk of malfunction. The new bridge is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 billion. Partners including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ TRANSIT, Amtrak, and U.S. DOT are currently developing a funding and financing plan so that construction can proceed as soon as possible.

The recently completed design process involved a preliminary design phase, for which costs of $31 million were shared between NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak, and final design, funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant of $38.5 million.

A second, two-track Portal South Bridge span is proposed as part of the Gateway Program and when complete will double train capacity along this critical length of the Northeast Corridor. Planning and design of Portal South Bridge will be finalized following the completion of the federal NEC Future study and environmental review process.

“Delivering the Portal North Bridge for my constituents has been among my highest priorities since coming to Congress,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7th. “Relentless pressure from Congress has produced this major win for New Jersey commuters and I look forward to seeing it over the finish line as we continue to fight for the Hudson River Tunnel as well.”

The House ensured that sufficient funding was included in the FY 2019 and 2020 appropriations bills to cover the first stage of the Portal North project. The first bill Malinowski introduced, the Transportation Funding Fairness Act, allows New Jersey to count federal loans as part of its share of jointly funded transportation projects, and was also included in the FY2019 and 2020 appropriations bills. Malinowski has maintained oversight of the FTA, and repeatedly pressed DOT officials to move forward with Portal North in hearings and phone calls with senior Department officials.

Malinowski's district office is located in Somerville at 75-77 No. Bridge St.