Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the completion of construction on the new Goethals Bridge, with the westbound span opening to traffic in time for rush hour on Monday morning, May 21. The new $1.5 billion twin span, cable-stayed bridge crossing over the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and Elizabeth will serve as a key thoroughfare for the transport of billions of dollars of goods and millions of travelers throughout the region. This critical infrastructure project represents the first new bridge built by the Port Authority since 1931. The eastbound span opened in June 2017 and has been used to accommodate two lanes of traffic in each direction while the westbound span was under construction.
The completion and opening of the second span of the Goethals Bridge project represents one of the most important infrastructure enhancements undertaken in the New Jersey-New York metro region in more than eight decades,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “These critical improvements will ease congestion and provide a safer driving environment for daily commuters and the more than 32 million travelers who use the bridge annually.”
“The Goethals Bridge is a vital artery connecting millions of travelers across the New York metropolitan area, and this new state-of-the-art crossing will ease travel for current and future generations of New Yorkers and residents from surrounding communities,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “From the revitalization of JFK and LaGuardia airports to the expansion of the Long Island Rail Road to the building of the Governor Mario Cuomo and Goethals bridges, New York is modernizing our transportation infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.”
The new Goethals Bridge represents a major upgrade to the region’s infrastructure system and a vast improvement for drivers, who for decades had to navigate a crossing built during the era of the Model T Ford and well before the implementation of federal highway standards.
The new bridge’s twin spans each feature three 12-foot-wide standard-width travel lanes in each direction, 12-foot outer shoulders and five-foot inner shoulders on each span. This will result in an easier, safer ride that will reduce congestion, accommodate future traffic volumes and restore pedestrian and bicycle access. The original bridge had substandard 10-foot-wide travel lanes and no shoulders, which caused extensive delays during accidents and breakdowns.
The new bridge is equipped with “smart bridge” technology, which provides continuous electronic monitoring of bridge structures using a network of sensors at critical points. The sensors can identify potentially serious problems before they may be apparent to a human inspector, as well as help determine how a bridge will behave under heavy traffic, in severe weather conditions and during other potentially hazardous situations.
Construction of the bridge was done through an innovative design-build-finance-maintain public-private partnership (P3) – the first true surface transportation P3 in the Northeast. The Port Authority will repay the costs of construction to the developer over the life of the P3 once the project is complete. This financing arrangement enabled the Port Authority to begin procurement for the project more quickly while minimizing the use of public funds. Financing for the project included federal TIFIA financing directly to the developer, a unique payback structure in lieu of toll revenues (which the Port Authority will continue to control), and developer equity investment.
The Port Authority committed approximately $363 million of the $1.5 billion total cost, including prior planning, permitting, property acquisition, as well as design and engineering work. The agency will make another $150 million in payments to the developer upon completion of key milestones, including substantial bridge completion and the demolition of the old structure. Additional periodic payments will be made to the developer to cover capital and maintenance costs over the next 35 years, subject to deductions if the private partner NYNJ Link fails to meet certain performance criteria. The Port Authority will continue to operate the new bridge and retains control of the setting and collection of tolls.
The bridge project employed 100 percent union labor for operations, management and capital improvement. It created approximately 2,250 direct jobs, paying a total of $224 million in wages and generating $872 million in total economic activity for the region.
The bridge project dates back more than 16 years, with the preliminary concept work and environmental reviews beginning in 2002. The Port Authority Board of Commissioners provided final authorization for the project in April 2013.
Prior to the new westbound span opening on May 20, the bridge’s current westbound lanes will be closed beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 18, and will reopen no later than 4 a.m. Monday, May 21. The closing will allow the existing approach ramps – which now feed westbound traffic onto two lanes on the eastbound span – to be realigned to allow traffic to feed onto the newly opened westbound structure. During the closing, travelers heading westbound into New Jersey will be diverted to the Outerbridge Crossing or the Bayonne Bridge. The bridge’s eastbound lanes will not be impacted.
Once the westbound span opens, the eastbound span – which has accommodated bi-directional traffic for the past year – will be reconfigured in the coming weeks to open up a third eastbound lane along with full shoulders. During that work, which will be completed by the end of June, the eastbound span will retain its two eastbound travel lanes.
In addition to its responsibilities for the design, construction and funding of the project, NYNJ Link LLC – a partnership of Macquarie and Kiewit — will maintain the bridge for its first 35 years. The project benefitted from a $463 million low-interest USDOT TIFIA loan, and $460 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds, in addition to over $100 million in at-risk equity capital from NYNJ Link to finance the project.
The original bridge opened to traffic on June 29, 1928 on what would have been the 70th birthday of its namesake, Major Gen. George Washington Goethals. Goethals, who administered and oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal, served as the Port Authority’s first consulting engineer. He died shortly before the completion of the bridge.
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