Bayonne Bridge is Falling Up, Falling Up

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gov. Christie hailed the Port Authority's spending commitment. Brian Thompson reports. (Published Tuesday, Sep 21, 2010)

    Like a twist on the old nursery rhyme, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise a key bridge in New York Harbor. And it could cost upwards of a billion dollars.

    You see, the Bayonne Bridge is too low for the super-sized container ships that bring us flat-screen TVs and Christmas toys from the Far East -- now that the Panama Canal is getting bigger.

    "It's a day of good news for New Jersey's economic future," said Governor Chris Christie in announcing the PA's decision in the shadow of the bridge in Bayonne.

    The bridge connects Bayonne to Staten Island, but when it was built more than 70 years ago, few could have for seen how it could turn into a road block for the sprawling container port that has grown up on the west side of Newark Bay, now known as the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth.

    With the widening of the Panama Canal to be completed in about five years, those huge container ships that now sail to just West Coast ports will be able to call on the East Coast as well.

    And yet, for crowded Bayonne and Staten Island, there's a double fear.

    Truck Driver Ricardo Ramirez of Jersey City uses it almost every day and worries that the bridge could be shut down for an extended period.

    "They'll take it out for years, I'm gonna be dead," Ramirez said.

    And then there are the neighborhoods near the crossing.

    Jim and Marie Mannion have lived just a block away from the bridge for 35 years.

    He is worried that tweaking the approach on a different alignment could end up aiming it right at his house.

    "This whole neighborhood is going to be wiped out," Mannion, 74, said.

    The devil is definitely in the details as to how to get an extra 30 feet or so of clearance. Jacking the bridge up is one idea, and so is turning it into a sort of drawbridge. Yet, building a replacement likely would cost too much.

    But whatever happens, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who supports a higher bridge, said he will look out for his neighborhoods and commuters.

    "I refuse to allow our citizens to be impacted adversely," Mayor Smith told NBCNew York, then added, "it's not something I'm going to allow."

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY