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Historic Bridge Projects Get $3B Boost

Monday, April 29, 2013

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Three major bridge projects connecting Staten Island and New Jersey have taken a $3 billion step forward, juiced by new funding approvals from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The largest share—$1.5 billion—was awarded for a 40-year, design-build-finance-maintain contract to replace the Goethals Bridge with a new, state-of-the-art, cable-stayed bridge, the agency announced Wednesday (April 24).

The contract is part of a public-private partnership (PPP) that allows the agency to maintain control of the bridge, while having access to private-sector construction and maintenance expertise, as well as private capital.

Goethals Bridge
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Goethals Bridge (left) will get a $1.5 billion replacement (right) in the first public-private parternship for surface transportation in the Northeast.

The agency also announced that its Board of Commissioners awarded a $743.3 million contract as part of a $1.29 billion program to increase navigational clearance of the Bayonne Bridge.

Finally, the board also approved a $15.3 million contract to Crisdel Group to resurface the Outerbridge Crossing.

In addition to the three bridge projects, the Port Authority said, work is expected to begin next year to replace the George Washington Bridge suspender ropes. It will be the first time in the bridge's history that they will be replaced.

Goethals: 'Unique' Agreement

The Goethals Bridge is the first true PPP surface transportation project in the Northeast Region—and the Port Authority's first new bridge in more than 80 years.

The contract was awarded to NYNJ Link Partnership, which is comprised of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc. and Kiewit Development, together with lead contractors Kiewit Infrastructure, Weeks Marine, and Massman Construction.

The agency called the agreement "unique" and said it would save an estimated 10 percent in combined construction and maintenance costs over the life of the agreement versus the Port Authority's own project estimates.

"The Port Authority's approval of the Goethals and Bayonne Bridge projects is welcome news," said Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress.

"In particular, the New York Building Congress applauds the Port Authority for moving forward with a public-private partnership in rebuilding the Goethals. Such innovative partnerships with the private sector are the wave of the future, which we hope will be emulated widely in the coming years," said Anderson.

The developer will benefit from access of up to $500 million in a low-cost, U.S. DOT Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan and the issuance of Private Activity Bonds.

With these incentives, the Port Authority said the bridge should be completed at least six months earlier than current agency estimates.

Outerbridge Crossing
Wikimedia Commons

The Outerbridge Crossing will get a $15.3 million facelift, the least expensive project announced.

1st New Bridge in 80+ Years

The new Goethals Bridge will be the first time the Port Authority has built a new bridge since 1931, when the George Washington Bridge opened. Port Authority engineers said building a new replacement would be more cost-effective than repairing the existing structure.

The Goethals Bridge project is expected to create more than 2,250 direct construction jobs, $224 million in wages, and $872 million in economic activity for the region, according to the agency.

Construction crews will remove the current bridge once the new span is complete.

Bigger, Smarter

The new bridge will include additional, wider travel lanes and 12-foot shoulders to ease congestion and accommodate future traffic volume as well as a pedestrian/bicycle pathway. The new structure will have a 100-year service life and will include options for future mass transit.

It will also boast the latest "smart bridge" technology, including Roadway Weather Information Systems that collect environmental data such as wind speed, visibility, and pavement temperature, the agency said. A Traffic Detection System that uses sensors embedded in the roadway will provide alerts on traffic.

George Washington Bridge
Wikimedia Commons

The Goethals Bridge will be the first new bridge the agency has built since the George Washington Bridge (pictured) in 1931. For the first time ever, suspender ropes on the GW Bridge will be replaced.

"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 David Samson, Port Authority chairman.

Construction is expected to start later this year, with initial service commencing in 2016 and "substantial" completion in late 2017, according to the Port Authority.

The developer will not receive milestone payments until the bridge nears completion.

Bayonne: Raising the Roadway

The $743.3 million contract for the Bayonne Bridge was awarded to joint venture Skanska Koch Inc./Kiewit Infrastructure Co.

The project is the first time in agency history that engineers will construct a bridge roadway deck above the existing roadway, while traffic continues on the deck below, the Port Authority said.

Work on the bridge will include raising the deck by 64 feet and building a modern roadway with safer 12-foot lanes, shoulders, a median divider, and a 12-foot bike and pedestrian walkway.

Work is expected to start later this year with deck removal scheduled for late 2015, pending completion of the environmental review and permitting process, the agency said. One lane of traffic will operate in each direction throughout the project, with some overnight and weekend closures.

According to the Port Authority, the project is critical to maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of NY and NJ ports once the Panama Canal is widened in 2015 to allow for larger ships.

Jobs, Wages, Investments

The Port Authority said it would work with surrounding communities to minimize potential construction impacts.

Bayonne Bridge
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

To accomodate larger ships, the Bayonne Bridge deck will be raised 64 feet in a project that involves building the new deck above the existing roadway.

The project is expected to create more than 2,500 construction jobs; $380 million in wages an;d more than $1.6 billion in economic activity. The joint venture has committed to focusing on employing local, small, and minority- and women-owned businesses in all areas of the project, the agency announced.

"The Port Authority's plan to raise the navigational clearance of the Bayonne Bridge will provide thousands of men and women throughout the region with high paying jobs, while also serving to improve the region's transportation infrastructure and the long-term competitiveness of our ports," said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

Thomas Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, called the Bayonne and Goethals Bridge projects "smart investments."

"In the short term," he said, "the projects put thousands of people to work."

"In the longer term, the projects will allow an entire new generation of large container ships to access our port, keeping it vibrant, bringing new business to the state, and creating thousands more jobs."


Tagged categories: Bridges; Contract awards; Contracts; Department of Transportation (DOT); Economy; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Transportation

Comment from Stephen Mellon, (4/29/2013, 10:18 AM)

Wow these are some heavy duty projects. Glad to hear they are trying improve the region.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (4/29/2013, 7:14 PM)

Nice!!! Good to see someone is really serious about infrastructure spending.

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