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Newly Raised Bayonne Bridge Opens to Traffic

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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A $1.3 billion project on a bridge between New Jersey and New York’s Staten Island borough has reached a milestone, as traffic began flowing on the Bayonne Bridge Monday (Feb. 20).

The job—in which the bridge deck has been raised by 64 feet, to accommodate large shipping vessels traveling beneath it—is far from over, though; the end date for the project is 2019.

Bayonne bridge project
ArnoldReinhold, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bayonne Bridge's deck has been raised 64 feet, to accommodate large shipping vessels traveling beneath it.

Monday’s reopening marked “Milestone 1” for the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project, meaning that the deck reopened to two lanes of traffic at a height of 215 feet above the Kill van Kull strait, allowing “New Panamax” cargo vessels to pass underneath.

When “Milestone 2” is reached, the project will be complete, with four lanes of traffic and a shared bicycle-pedestrian path, according to reports. The target date is 2019.

Larger Cargo Ships

The idea for the project began in 2010, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it would be undertaking a project on the Bayonne Bridge to increase navigational clearance for today’s larger cargo ships.

The size of the largest cargo ships to use the Panama Canal increased by one-and-a-half times when the canal expansion opened in 2016. The “New Panamax” ships, accommodated by the new canal, are generally about 1.200 feet long, and 190 feet high.

Raise or Raze

A debate between “raising” the bridge deck and “razing” the bridge—and replacing it with a higher structure—was eventually settled in favor of preserving the 85-year-old steel arch bridge, and rebuilding the deck 64 feet higher than its previous 151-foot height.

ArnoldReinhold, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The new piers, approach roads and deck will help the bridge “last for generations,” the Port Authority says.

The Port Authority notes that the new piers, approach roads and deck will help the bridge “last for generations.”

With a steel arch reaching 325 feet above the water at its highest point, the distance between the deck and the crown of the arch has gone from 174 feet, before the renovation, to 110 feet.

The Contractors

The renovation contract was awarded to a joint venture of Skanska Koch Inc. and Kiewit Infrastructure Co. in 2013. A separate paint-removal and repainting contract was awarded to Ahern Painting Contractors Inc., of Queens.

In 2015, two painters employed by Ahern were arrested for allegedly stealing copper wire from the bridge worksite, causing a power outage in the process.

Bridge History

Designed by Othmar Ammann, the Bayonne Bridge is 5,780 feet long in total, with a 1.675-foot arch span. It was the longest steel-arch bridge in the world at the time of its opening in 1931, and is the fifth-largest today. When it opened, the 151-foot clearance could accommodate the largest naval ships of the day.

According to the Port Authority, the original construction of the bridge, from 1928 through 1931, was completed both ahead of schedule and under budget, at $13 million.

The Bayonne Bridge carried close to 3.5 million total vehicles annually before restrictions began in 2013.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Contractors; Infrastructure; North America; Port Authority of New Jersey; Port Authority of New York; Program/Project Management; Renovation; Ships and vessels; Steel

Comment from MICHAEL DEATON, (2/22/2017, 7:27 AM)

That's the most impressive 2 minute & 9 second video that I've seen in a while!

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