N.Y.-N.J. ports reaffirm vow to fix Bayonne Bridge
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials reiterated their commitment to altering or removing the Bayonne Bridge as an obstacle to ships that want to call at its main terminals on Staten Island and in Port Newark and Port Elizabeth.
'We won't begin to feel the impact for a number of years, but we recognize the need to take action,' said Susan Bass Levin, deputy executive director of the agency.
In August the authority appropriated $10 million to determine the best solution to solving the vessel clearance problem, she said. That follows a study by the Army Corps of Engineers that estimated the costs of jacking up the bridge ($1.3 billion), replacing it with a new bridge ($2.2 billion) or a new tunnel ($2.2 billion to $3.1 billion).
'Never underestimate the port authority's resolve and resourcefulness. We will solve the problem of the Bayonne Bridge,' Levin added.
Richard Larrabee, the port authority's director of port commerce, said there may be a chance the new study might identify an innovative solution to allow ships to pass beneath it. Engineers have suggested it might possible to modify the Bayonne Bridge into a lift bridge so that the center section could be raised — a fix that might be cheaper and more quickly accomplished, he said.
Depending on the tide, ships have 151 to 156 feet of 'air draft' beneath the bridge. The Army Corps study looked at establishing a new height of 215 feet so the port could accommodate the large new ships that are expected to begin calling U.S. East Coast ports from the Far East after the Panama Canal is completed in 2014.
Levin said the port authority's container cargo volume was down about 15 percent in the first half of 2009, but Larrabee said the port expects volumes to rebound and grow at about 3 percent to 5 percent annually over the long term.
To handle that growth, Larrabee said the port can expand capacity through increasing the number of containers handled per acre at the port's terminals (now about 6,800 per acre per year) and through expanding its terminals. The port is planning on building a 110-acre container terminal and an intermodal facility adjacent to the Global Terminal at the site of a former automobile terminal in Jersey City. It also has a 100-acre expansion site in Port Newark and 32 acres on Staten Island.