As part of the Port Authority’s bridge construction program, the Board of Commissioners today awarded a $743.3 million contract to Skanska Koch, Inc. / Kiewit Infrastructure Co. (JV) team as part of a $1.29-billion program to increase the navigational clearance of the Bayonne Bridge. The project will raise the deck by 64 feet and provide drivers with a new, modern roadway with safer 12-foot lanes, shoulders, a median divider and a 12-foot bike and pedestrian walkway. It also will provide the capability for future mass transit options across the span.

The Bayonne Bridge project is the first time in agency history that engineers will construct a bridge roadway deck above the existing roadway, while traffic continues to flow on the deck below. Work will start later this year with deck removal scheduled for late 2015. One lane of traffic will operate in each direction throughout the life of the project, with overnight and limited weekend closures.

The widening of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion in 2015, will result in larger, more modern ships calling on the port. Raising the roadway of the 81-year-old Bayonne Bridge’s main deck by 64 feet will allow cleaner, more efficient post-Panamax ships to pass under the structure to access port terminals in New York and New Jersey. The project is critical to maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the New York and New Jersey ports.

The Bayonne Bridge Raise the Roadway plan is included in President Obama’s 2012 We Can’t Wait Initiative of expedited infrastructure projects. The Port Authority was among the first in the country to apply for the program in March of 2012.

“The Board’s approval of the Bayonne Bridge project is a critical step toward preserving the Port of New York and New Jersey’s standing as the premier hub port and gateway for the East Coast,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. The Port Authority anticipates work beginning later this year on the Bayonne Bridge navigational clearance program, pending completion of the environmental review and permitting process. The Port Authority’s short animation video (available at details how engineers plan to raise the roadway.

The endeavour has benefitted from the strong support of elected officials in New York and New Jersey including New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires. The project also has the backing of labour unions, the shipping industry and port tenants.

The project is critical to maintain the Port of New York and New Jersey as the East Coast’s leading destination for international shippers. It will directly benefit ports in both states, including Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal and New York Container Terminal. Currently, the port handles 30 percent of all goods shipped to the East Coast, and supports more than 280,000 jobs.

During the past 10 years, the Port Authority has invested more than $2 billion to build new port infrastructure. To attract international shippers, Port of New York and New Jersey has the greatest rail capacity of any East Coast port, the largest terminal and berth capacity, served by the biggest labour force. In addition, the Port has more shipping services to more destinations than any port on the East Coast.

In another action taken by the Port Authority, its Board of Commissioners also awarded a 40-year design-build-finance-maintain contract to NYNJ Link Partnership as part of a $1.5-billion public-private partnership (PPP) to replace the Goethals Bridge with a new state-of-the-art cable-stayed bridge.

The new span will connect Staten Island, New York with Elizabeth, New Jersey. Construction crews will remove the current Goethals Bridge once construction on the replacement span is complete.

This is the first time the Port Authority will build a new bridge since 1931, when the George Washington Bridge opened to vehicular traffic. Port Authority engineers determined that building a new replacement bridge is a more cost-effective solution than repairing the existing bridge.

The Port Authority is utilizing an innovative PPP that allows the agency to maintain control of the asset, while having access to private-sector construction and maintenance expertise as well as private capital. The unique agreement will save the Port Authority an estimated 10 per cent in combined construction and maintenance costs over the life of the agreement versus the Port Authority’s own project estimates, while minimizing any impact to the agency’s debt capacity. The developer will benefit from access of up to $500 million in a low cost, U.S. DOT TIFIA loan and the issuance of Private Activity Bonds.

The Port Authority believes the incentives included in the deal will speed the delivery of the completed bridge by at least six months compared to the Port Authority’s own construction estimates. The Goethals is the first surface transportation project built as a true PPP in the northeast region.

“The replacement of the Goethals Bridge is a historic undertaking for the Port Authority, as is the use of this groundbreaking PPP structure which will permit the agency to leverage the private sector’s capital and expertise while freeing up valuable resources for other, mission-critical, transportation infrastructure projects,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson.

“The innovative PPP process the agency is using to build a replacement Goethals Bridge will allow the Port Authority to maximize private sector ingenuity and capital, while minimizing the use of public funds,” said Port Authority Vice Chair Scott Rechler. “This is the first time a PPP is being used to build surface transportation infrastructure in the Northeast and we believe it will serve as a model moving forward.”

The NYNJ Link Partnership comprises Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc. and Kiewit Development, together with lead contractors Kiewit Infrastructure, Weeks Marine, and Massman Construction.

The new bridge will include additional wider travel lanes and 12-foot shoulders that will ease congestion and accommodate anticipated future traffic volumes. It also will provide state-of-the-art smart bridge technology, including Roadway Weather Information Systems that collect environmental data such as wind speed, visibility, and pavement temperature, as well as a Traffic Detection System that use sensors embedded in the roadway to provide alerts on traffic build-up so incident response plans may be quickly implemented.

Additionally, the new structure will restore pedestrian access to the Goethals Bridge with a pedestrian/bicycle pathway – a safe, scenic passageway for recreational enjoyment. The replacement Goethals Bridge will have a 100-year service life and will be built to include options for mass transit in the future.

The current Goethals Bridge is a crucial asset to the region’s productivity. Its strategic location sustains the robust commercial activity of the New York Container Terminal in Staten Island and its proximity to Newark International Airport positions it at the center of one of the largest air cargo gateways in the nation.

Construction on the replacement bridge is expected to begin later this year, with initial service commencing in late 2016 and substantial completion of the bridge occurring in late 2017. To ensure the speedy delivery of the project, milestone payments to the developer will not begin until the bridge nears completion. The current Goethals Bridge will remain open until service begins on the new bridge. The Port Authority is developing an overall traffic plan for the life of the project and the agency does not expect there to be any significant traffic impacts throughout the life of the project.

In other action taken by the Board, the Board also approved a $15.3 million contract to Crisdel Group to resurface the Outerbridge Crossing.

Along with the three projects approved as part of the Port Authority’s bridge construction program, work is expected to begin in 2014 on the replacement of the George Washington Bridge suspender ropes. It will be the first time in the bridge’s history that the ropes will be replaced.

The above announcement builds on the Board of Commissioners commitment to return to the agency’s core mission and makes good on the promises made to toll payers that revenue from the toll and fare increase in 2011 was necessary and would go directly to improving the agency’s aging infrastructure.