N.J. Leaders announce infrastructure projects to aid regional port operations
New Jersey officials recently announced a series of infrastructure projects meant to support operations for port facilities and the vehicles that serve them.
Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey representatives and other elected leaders announced the projects, which are meant to improve routes that facilitate regional port operations, on Nov. 17.
The Port of New York and New Jersey supports 500,000 jobs and generates billions of dollars in economic activity every year, according to Murphy’s office.
“For decades, New Jersey and our ports have been the corridor through which much of our nation’s economic activity has flowed,” Murphy said. “I’m thrilled that these critical projects will further enhance regional operations and contribute to a stronger, more modern infrastructure that will both deliver safer roads and bridges as well as fuel our state’s economic recovery — not just as we work toward the end of the pandemic, but for decades to come.”
Specifically, the projects involve replacements of the U.S. Route 22/Chestnut Street Bridge and the Wittpenn Bridge, as well as resurfacing work on a portion of state Route 27 that runs beside Newark Liberty International Airport.
The bridge that carries U.S. 22 over Chestnut Street is located in Union and forms a connection to Newark Liberty International Airport, which lies fewer than 10 miles east of the structure. Originally constructed in 1929, the bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be wider in an effort to facilitate safer movement of vehicles.
The Wittpenn Bridge, a vertical lift structure that opened in 1930, carries SR 7 over the Hackensack River. The replacement bridge will double vertical clearance from 35 feet to 70 feet, resulting in fewer bridge openings and less congestion. Murphy’s office estimates the project will reduce the number of bridge openings by 70%.
Dave Hensal, president of Eagle Systems Inc., said the Wittpenn Bridge replacement will have a positive impact on the trucking industry because of the structure’s proximity to truck and rail terminals. Eagle Systems operates transportation facilities nationwide.
Hensal, who also serves as president of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said trucks can use the Wittpenn Bridge to reach Jersey City or to connect to U.S. 9 and travel north to the George Washington Bridge.
“It’s located very close to the CSX intermodal terminal; there’s a lot of intermodal truck terminals there,” Hensal told Transport Topics. “There’s so much in north Jersey. It’s so densely populated and congested that anything these projects do, they do help.”
Although Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, acknowledged the projects do not represent direct routes to Port of New York and New Jersey facilities, she noted that they are supplementary routes that container drivers rely on.
New Jersey’s aging infrastructure, paired with its heavy traffic congestion and bustling freight activity, present challenges, Toth said. Citing potholes as “big as a truck tire,” she said the roads need to be fixed and updated with more lanes and improved points of egress.
“They’re just so old, and they may have worked really well when they were first built, but they just don’t work for today,” Toth told TT. “All these improvements help people to get to work and help us move goods.”