NJ.Com reporting on Bayonne Bridge ignores environmental health impacts on the community

This is very disappointing coverage of the Bayonne Bridge from NJ.com, with not one word about environmental and community impacts.

For the rest of the story, check out news from the Coalition for Healthy Ports, and this short video of Kim Thompson-Gaddy discussing impacts of the ports on her community.


Source: NJ.com

Bayonne Bridge races against arrival of super-sized ships (VIDEO)

BAYONNE — Driving over the Bayonne Bridge, it’s possible to look through the metal framework of the partially dismantled roadway at the steel tops of shipping containers passing just a few feet below, stacked 15 stories above the waters of the Kill Van Kull on huge ships.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is spending $1.3 billion to raise the roadway by 40 percent, from 161 feet above the kill at high tide to 215. The project is intended to provide access to the Newark and Elizabeth terminals for super-sized “post-Panamax” vessels that cannot fit under the current roadway but are expected to start traveling directly to the East Coast from China following completion of a Panama Canal expansion in mid-2016.

Video: Bayonne Bridge will be ready for larger post-Panama Canal ships
As the Panama Canal is expanded, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is raising the roadbed of the Bayonne Bridge to allow for larger ships. Joann Papageorgis, program director of the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program, says that the bridge will be ready when the new canal opens. (Video by John Munson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Port Authority officials say the project, which began in May 2013, is 25 percent complete, on schedule to clear the lower roadway as a navigational obstacle by the time the canal expansion is finished, give or take a few months.

“The fact that we’ve gotten where we did in the time we did is pretty amazing,” said Joann Papageorgis, the Port Authority program director for the project, who led a recent tour of the work.

Tony Bartolomeo, a past chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineering’s Industry Leaders Counsel, said it was the first time the roadway of a steel arch bridge was replaced. The job is all the more impressive, he added, because of the historic significance of the Bayonne Bridge, which was the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it opened on Nov. 15, 1931, and was named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the society in 1985.

“It’s magnificent when you think about it,” said of the project. “This is an infrastructure element that’s 80 years old that’s being adapted for today’s economy. It’s wonderful that the owners and engineers were able to take this historic structure and adapt it to today’s needs and not have to scrap it.”

Apart from the thousands of people in the region whose jobs depend on the continued vitality of the port, motorists will also benefit from the project, which will widen the two traffic lanes in each direction, add shoulders, install a center divider, and give the bridge a long overdue paint job.

After all, motorists are the ones paying for it, which is part of a 10-year capital plan financed largely through a 2011 multi-phase toll hike at all Port Authority bridges and tunnels that still has two increments remaining. The next one takes effect Dec. 7, when the basic cost of a crossing will rise to $11.75 for E-ZPass subscribers and $14 for cash customers.

On most bridge replacement projects, the new structure is completed and its approaches linked to access roads before demolition of the old crossing, which typically remains in full use until its ultimate shutdown. But to insure the region does not lose cargo to competing ports following the expanded canal’s opening, the project has been designed to remove the lower roadway as soon as possible, while maintaining traffic in both directions.

To that end, the new roadway is being constructed at the same time that the old one is being dismantled. In addition, the new roadway will be pressed into service after being only half finished, initially providing just one lane of traffic in each direction instead of two, allowing the old roadway to be completely removed sooner. Much of the old roadway is already gone, including the concrete from the northbound lanes, and traffic has already been restricted to just one lane each way.

The planning process was accelerated after Gov. Chris Christie declared the project a priority in 2010. Two years later, the federal permitting process got a short cut when the roadway raising was one of the first large infrastructure projects fast-tracked by the Obama Administration under a job stimulus program.

Cutting the number of lanes in half might create a traffic nightmare at the Port Authority’s five other bi-state crossings — the Outerbridge, Goethals and George Washington Bridges, and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels — but the Bayonne Bridge is the least traveled among them.

“Traffic flow per se, we haven’t gotten any complaints,” said Joe Ryan, a spokesman for Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis.

The work is being done by a consortium of Skanska Koch, Inc. and Kiewit Infrastructure Company, awarded the $743 million construction contract in April 2013.

Progress on the new roadway includes completion of new, higher abutments on the Bayonne and Staten Island sides that will link the bridge’s main access road, Route 440, to new approach ramps, which also have to be higher to meet the roadway’s raised main span farther up on the arch. Crews are just now starting to erect the new ramps’ vertical support piers, which will step up to a height of 175 feet.

 Video: Port Authority shows how they’ll raise the Bayonne Bridge

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released an animation of how the Bayonne Bridge will be lifted from its current height of 151 feet to 215 feet – so that ships can navigate easier on nearby ports. Source: www.panynj.gov

Starting soon, traffic in both directions will be subject to intermittent “holds” of 20 minutes at a time, while a construction crane lowers into place concrete pier segments weighing as much as 100 tons each, almost directly above the existing lanes.

To assemble the approach ramps, Skanska-Kiewit imported a pair of specialized cranes from China measuring 500 feet long and weighing 500 tons a piece, which now sit atop the two earthen and masonry abutments. The huge yellow cranes, which extend horizontally rather than vertically, will hoist sections of the new approach ramps out and lay their ends atop the support piers. As each section of ramp is installed, the cranes, which are known as gantries, will be moved forward onto that newly installed section, and from there extend the next section of ramp out onto the next pier.

The process will be repeated on both sides of the bridge, until the approach ramps meet the exterior of the arch on either side.

“It’s a great engineering challenge, but quite doable with today’s technologies,” Bartolomeo said.

Some bridge experts wonder whether the higher roadway would alter the aesthetics of an arch bridge admired for its steely good looks, perhaps giving it a top-heavy appearance. But Bartolomeo downplayed the notion, noting that the bridge’s most important aesthetic component, its “iconic” arch, will be unchanged.

Papageorgis said historic preservation officials from both states had approved the roadway raising, and pointed out that it avoids a far more drastic measure that had also been considered.

“The alternative,” she said, “was tearing down the bridge in its entirety.”

Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow hin on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook.