Environmental groups file suit to halt Bayonne Bridge project

Source: The Jersey Journal

By Mike D’Onofrio | The Jersey Journal 

on August 19, 2014 at 10:13 PM
Environmental and community groups asked a New York federal judge Friday for a summary judgment to bring an immediate halt to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s four-year project to raise the Bayonne Bridge roadway 64 feet.

The lawsuit, filed by environmental groups including the Coalition for Healthy Ports and the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island, alleges the U.S. Coast Guard skirted federal environmental laws when it issued a permit in May 2013 to the Port Authority to raise the bridge roadway, according to court documents.

The defendants in the case are the Coast Guard and Port Authority, among others.
The Coalition for Healthy Ports was part of a lawsuit in 2013 asking to invalidate the permit issued by the Coast Guard.

Amy Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Healthy Ports, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Coast Guard, according to the environmental groups in court documents, failed to analyze the “adverse environmental and public health impacts” that will accompany increased port traffic.

In addition, the Coast Guard refused to disclose its own data that found the environmental impacts would be minimal, according to court documents filed by the environmental groups.

Raising the bridge roadway to allow larger contain ships to pass through will greatly increase the levels of air pollution throughout the region, allege to the environmental groups, and subject communities to hazardous contaminants, including lead, arsenic and asbestos.

The environmental groups also allege the federal agency falsely concluded that raising the bridge roadway would have “only a minimal effect on future cargo volumes at the Port,” according to court documents.

According to the environmental groups, cargo traffic would increase as much as 44 percent when the bridge is raised – an estimate much higher than the Coast Guard’s.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also raised concerns over the Coast Guard’s environmental impact study before a permit was granted to the Port Authority in 2013.

Lisa Novak, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard, said the Coast Guard has a “general policy of not commenting on pending litigation.”

Chris Valens, a spokesman for the Port Authority, also said, “We never comment on pending litigation.”

The $1.3 billion, four-year project to raise the bridge roadway is intended to allow larger ships to pass through one of the world’s busiest water ways to ports in Newark, Elizabeth and Staten Island. The completion of the Panama Canal expansion in the next few years is expected to usher in a new era of larger cargo ships traveling from Asia to the East Coast.
While businesses support raising the bridge, the construction has caused headaches for residents living in the area since it began.

Bayonne residents living near the bridge blame the earth-shaking constructionfor causing cracks in their homes, noise and rattling their windows. Residents again vented their frustrations to Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis and council members last month.

The increase in port traffic also has Newark residents raising concerns. More ships coming into the port would bring more trucks, pollution, noise and aggravation, contend residents.