A long-delayed project to replace a heavily traveled, century-old rail bridge in northern New Jersey received key federal funding Monday.
The Federal Transit Administration announced it has awarded a $766 million grant for the building of the Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River, the final piece that will allow the project to begin primary construction.
The project, part of the larger Gateway project that includes a new tunnel under the Hudson River into New York, completed its design phase and received environmental approvals several years ago. It languished while New York and New Jersey officials squabbled with the federal government over dividing up the cost.
Construction on the bridge could begin later this year and is expected to take about four to five years. In addition to the grant, the rest of the roughly $1.9 billion cost will be borne mostly by the state of New Jersey, which is committing about $800 million, and Amtrak, which is committing about $260 million.
The new bridge will replace a 110-year-old swing bridge that occasionally becomes stuck after it opens to allow boats to pass under, causing delays along the corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. Nearly 200,000 people and 450 trains cross the bridge each day during normal times.
A study released in 2019 found that passengers traveling between New Jersey and New York had experienced rail delays of five hours or more about 17 times per year in recent years. About three-quarters were attributable to problems with the tunnel and the rest were due to problems with the bridge.
The bridge is the farthest along of the projects under the Gateway umbrella but had been sidelined by low ratings from the FTA that disqualified it from federal grant funding. the project received a higher rating last February.