State spending $1.5 billion to replace a 108-year-old rail bridge

New Jersey Transit’s board of directors has committed $600 million of a $1.5 billion price tag to replace a 108-year-old rail bridge that has been a frequent cause of long delays on the busy Northeast Corridor.

The state’s economic development authority will borrow the money to get the Portal North bridge project closer to completion, as part of the financing agreement approved Wednesday.

The bridge over the Hackensack River causes delays when it swings open to let marine traffic go underneath because it doesn’t realign correctly.  A malfunction suspended train service for hours in March.

The Portal Bridge is a railroad bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey’s Gateway Region, just west of Secaucus Junction.

It is a two-track, moveable swing-span between the towns of Kearny and Secaucus owned and operated by Amtrak as part of the Northeast Corridor and also used by New Jersey Transit.

As of 2015, it was considered the busiest train span in the Western Hemisphere, carrying between 150,000 and 200,000 passengers per day.

The estimated cost for replacing the bridge is $1.5 billion, which would make it the fifth most expensive bridge ever built in the world.

Design work and environmental permitting have been completed for the bridge, and pre-construction activities have begun. Local transit officials are awaiting federal dollars to pay for the rest of the project.

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