Bayonne Bridge raising would benefit from fast tracking

portofnyJULY 20, 2012—As we reported earlier today, seven infrastructure projects at five U.S. ports have been selected by the Obama Administration to receive a streamlined federal review and permitting process under its We Can’t Wait Initiative. The administration says the initiatives will cut months and in some cases years off of the normal review and permit processes.

Among the projects selected is the raising of the iconic Bayonne Bridge, which connects Staten Island, NY, to Bayonne, NJ. The $1 billion project is necessary in order to accommodate containerships—whether in light load and full load condition—that must currently wait for tidal changes to pass safely under the bridge.  The current air draft at high tide is 152.4 feet.  Containerships that use the Port of New York and New Jersey want to be out of the port in no more than 24 hours once they arrive at Ambrose Light.

Right now, the maximum size boxship that can be accommodated by the Bayonne Bridge is 7,000 TEU. However, when the Panama Canal expansion is complete in 2014, boxships of more than 10,000 TEU could be operating to the port. These ships will have to be light-loaded—five high tiers as opposed to eight high tiers— in order to fit under the bridge. This will negate the economic benefits of operating a larger ship.

As a result, the Port of NY/NJ could lose traffic to other East Coast ports that can accommodate the ships, such as Norfolk, VA, or Savannah, GA.

The Port Authority of NY/NJ plans to fund the $1 billion to raise the air draft from 152.4 feet to 215 feet above mean high water, while still preserving the bridge’s historic arch. The majestic arch design of Bayonne Bridge inspired the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The project would be complete by 2016 and allow access to the port’s four main container terminals.

Also in the works is a $1.6 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to deepen the federal navigation channels to 50 feet. That project is expected to be complete in 2014.

The target date for completing all of the federal permitting and review decisions is April 2013. The coordinating agency for the project is the U.S. Coast Guard.

The other projects selected by the Administration include the deepening of the channels for the Port of Charleston, Port of Jacksonville, Port of Miami, and the Port of Savannah.

In addition, the Port of Jacksonville is seeking to speed the permitting process for its new Intermodal Container Facility, which would increase the port’s ability to handle containers by rail. The port received TIGER grant funding of $10 million to support the $45 million project.