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Bridge Rededication Marks Project Completion

Thursday, June 20, 2019

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Last Friday (June 14), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held a rededication ceremony for the Bayonne Bridge, marking the completion of the $1.7 billion “Raise the Roadway” project.

Over the course of six years, the 88-year-old structure’s deck was elevated 64 feet so the structure could accommodate 21st-century container ships and fuel growth at both state’s cargo terminals.

About the Project

The Bayonne project began in 2013, was quoted at $1.3 billion and originally slated to be ready for New Panamax ships—which are 1,201 feet in length and 190 feet high—by 2016, when the vessels were expected to debut. However, by 2015 setbacks had postponed the clearance date to late 2017.

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

Craig Walenta, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held a rededication ceremony for the Bayonne Bridge, marking the completion of the $1.7 billion “Raise the Roadway” project.

After years of off-and-on closing of Bayonne Bridge—and although construction wasn’t complete—by Feb. 20, 2017, two lanes were opened to traffic on the new elevated roadway and were paired with a cashless tolling system.

However, the following month the Navigational Clearance Project had resulted in unintended consequences for nearby residents, according to reports: debris, including tools, wood and concrete, falling to the ground in a populated area.

In April 2017, demolition work created yet another hazard, “excessive dust,” which resulted in a construction halt that lasted a little over a day. City business administrator Joe DeMarco told the dust conditions were exacerbated by high winds. The conditions began to worsen when construction officials moved demolition work to higher portions of the bridge.

Regardless of obstacles, by the beginning of May, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference 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 would 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.

In addition to this milestone, according to officials, the project was also projected to be ahead of schedule—at least, ahead of its most recent revised schedule.

By June 8, the U.S. Coast Guard certified the 215-foot clearance of the newly raised Bayonne Bridge.

With work still needing to be completed in order to have a functioning four lanes of traffic and a shared bicycle/pedestrian path, in December a new cost estimate was released for the Raise the Roadway project. At the time, according to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey the latest cost estimate for the project was $1.692 billion—a $38 million increase over the agency’s most recent prior estimate, and an overage of about 30% compared with the original price tag.

Port Authority officials blamed the cost overrun on design changes and unanticipated construction work—issues that could have been avoided with better agency oversight. The Port Authority reportedly increased its scrutiny of the project after the target date for the removal of the old deck was pushed back in 2015, from the original 2016 date to late 2017.

At the time, the Port Authority blamed the delays on “the harsh winter of 2014-15; 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.”

Steve Plate, chief of major capital projects for the Port Authority, also noted in 2018 that the work was like “performing open-heart surgery on a runner while he’s running a marathon. We had to keep it open, move thousands of cars a day, goods and services were coming in by ship, and we had to keep that all happening.”

By January 2019, an announcement was made that the Bayonne Bridge was slated to be complete by March and would feature two 12-foot-wide lanes running in each direction, along with outside and inside shoulders and a 10-foot-wide cyclist/pedestrian path.

What’s Happening Now

The rededication ceremony was celebrated during an ongoing $5.3 billion Port Authority commitment to modernize four bridges between New York and New Jersey.

“This project, coupled with our $1.5 billion investment to build a new Goethals Bridge, is indicative of this agency’s priority to bring its transportation infrastructure up to state-of-the-art global standards,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.

“The new bridge not only provides a significant benefit for the traveling public, cyclists and pedestrians, but has spurred unprecedented record growth at the port far beyond what was forecast only a few years ago.”

Since the Bayonne Bridge received navigational clearance in 2017, both states' ports have seen an increase in the size of vessels arriving, resulting in a jump of 4% to 26% of all containerized cargo. Additionally, during the first four months after achieving the clearance, cargo volumes were also reported to have increased 7.5% over the previous record set in 2018.

“Today we celebrate the completion of a massive infrastructure project that strengthens the Port of New York and New Jersey and our transportation network for future generations,” said New York City Councilwoman Deborah Rose.

“The raising of the Bayonne Bridge roadway was an impressive feat of engineering that I have watched almost every day for the past five years. I celebrate this accomplishment with the Port Authority, and I look forward to a healthy economic future for our waterfront.”

The higher navigational clearance is also estimated to generate 400,000 jobs and billions in economic activity.

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by Othmar Amman, and was originally completed in 1931 as the world’s longest steel arch bridge. It is currently the fifth-largest. In 1985, the bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was listed as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Completed projects; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Port Authority of New Jersey; Port Authority of New York; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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