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Bayonne Bridge Milestone Moved Up

Thursday, May 4, 2017

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The Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project is approaching a crucial milestone, and according to officials, the job is ahead of schedule—at least, ahead of its most recent revised schedule.

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

The lower deck of the Bayonne Bridge is set to be gone by the end of June—six months ahead of its most recent timeline, but still behind the 2016 deadline originally predicted when the project began.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference Tuesday (May 2) to announce, along with officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and other local entities, that the lower deck of the bridge will be removed by June 30, opening the Kill van Kull strait to “New Panamax” shipping vessels, with the bridge’s new 215-foot navigational clearance.

Previous Pushback, Rising Cost

The June 30 date for the removal of the lower deck puts the project about six months ahead of when that milestone was most recently predicted to take place. “Ahead of schedule” is a subjective term, though, as the original plan was to have the lower deck removed in 2016, but officials pushed that date back in 2015, estimating instead that the job would be done in late 2017.

At that time, the Port Authority blamed the setback on factors including “the harsh winter of 2014-2015; changes in project staging to address community concerns and reduce construction impacts overnight; modifications to the existing steel arch to ensure safety and allow traffic to continue during construction; as well as complicated steel reinforcement activities that required additional repairs and modifications.”

Officials also noted in 2015 that the $1.3 billion purported cost of the project could balloon by up to 15 percent due to the delays and challenges the contractors—a joint venture of Skanska Koch Inc. and Kiewit Infrastructure Co.—encountered. The new announcement puts the total cost of the job at $1.6 billion, an approximately 23 percent increase over the original estimate.

Project Background

The Bayonne Bridge Navigation Clearance Project reached its most recent milestone in February, when the newly constructed upper deck opened to two lanes of traffic. The completion of the project is expected in 2019, when the new deck will be open to four lanes of traffic, as well as a shared bicycle-pedestrian path.

The bridge-raising project was undertaken to accommodate the New Panamax ships, which were built in response to the opening of a new and larger set of locks in the Panama Canal. The New Panamax ships are 1,201 feet in length and 190 feet high. The original 2016 open date for the upgraded bridge was meant to coincide with the debut of the New Panamax vessels, which have been in use since June 2016.

Debris, Dust Concerns

The project has been subject to citizen and media scrutiny in recent months because of debris that has fallen from the worksite down to the surface below.

Citizens of Port Richmond, on Staten Island, complained in March that debris, tools, wood and even concrete were falling from the bridge into their neighborhood, damaging cars and other property. Some said the Port Authority would reimburse them only a fraction of the cost of the necessary repairs, and that the claims process was so long and unwieldy, many gave up trying to recoup their costs.

And in April, demolition work on the old deck was stopped for about two days due to concerns about what officials called “excessive dust.”


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Contractors; Infrastructure; North America; Port Authority of New York; Program/Project Management

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