Stakeholders mark halfway point in Portal North Bridge project

May 14, 2024
The achievement was reached less than two years after construction began on the project, which will deliver a new, two-track, high-level, fixed-span bridge.

Work to replace the Portal North Bridge, which spans the Hackensack River in New Jersey, reached the halfway point on May 13. 

“This landmark achievement is another milestone on the path of building a modern transit infrastructure linking the entire northeast corridor,” said Acting New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) Board Chair Fran O’Connor.  

The existing 114-year-old swing bridge originally entered revenue service in November 1910 to serve the Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, the bridge hosts Amtrak and NJ Transit trains that carry 200,000 passengers. The existing two-track, moveable swing span is a major bottleneck and source of delays, particularly when the aging bridge malfunctions during opening and closing for maritime traffic.

Construction to replace the old bridge began in August 2022 and reached 25 percent completion a year later in August 2023. The old bridge is being replaced with a new two-track fixed structure bridge using three 400-foot spans. In total, the project will see the construction of 2.44 miles of track infrastructure including 6,200 linear feet of new embankment sections and 6,700 linear feet of bridge and viaduct structure sections. The new bridge will also span the river 50-feet higher than it currently does, which will allow Hackensack River marine traffic to pass without interrupting rail traffic.

The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, NJ Transit and Amtrak. A Full Funding Grant Agreement was secured in January 2021 from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program for $766.5 million. 

"The Portal North Bridge Project stands as a testament to collaboration towards a common goal:  Enhancing the region’s transportation network and ensuring that people can seamlessly access New Jersey, New York, and beyond by train,” said Regional Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration Michael Culotta.  “The Federal Transit Administration is committed to improving transit access for everyone who uses the Northeast Corridor.  Congratulations to Governor Phil Murphy, NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett, and everyone involved in the project for reaching the halfway point."

When completed, the new bridge will allow NJ Transit to increase capacity and, as a key piece of the regional Gateway Program, the bridge plays a role in doubling rail capacity between Newark, N.J. and New York City. 

“Less than two years after officially breaking ground in August 2022, NJ TRANSIT is pleased to be able to demonstrate that mega-projects in the Northeast can be advanced on-time and on budget,” said NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “The new Portal North Bridge will significantly enhance the customer experience for New Jerseyans, as well as all those commuting along the entire Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston.”

Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia added, “With 50 percent of construction complete, Portal North Bridge serves as the shining example for what Amtrak and its partners can accomplish when we have the investments, partnerships and commitment to build the new era of America’s rail infrastructure projects.”

The work to replace the bridge is being performed by Skanska/Traylor Bros PNB Joint Venture, which was awarded a nearly $1.6 billion construction contract – the single largest construction award in NJ Transit history – in October 2021 by NJ Transit and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. 

"Skanska Traylor JV are incredibly excited to mark this significant milestone as we continue to advance our contribution to the creation of a new Portal North Bridge,” said Brian Reilly, vice president of operations for Skanska and project director of the Skanska Traylor PNB joint venture. “Upon final completion, this vital passageway will vastly enhance the travel experience for the thousands of daily commuters and New Jersey residents who rely on this bridge.” 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.