The U.S. Coast Guard has halted boat traffic on the Hackensack River at the Portal Bridge during rush hour, from 5-10 a.m. and 3-8 p.m., in an effort to alleviate train delays.
The 108-year-old swing bridge often gets stuck, cutting off rail traffic to and from New York City.
“Every time it swings open, it runs the risk of failure,” said Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who wrote a letter to the Coast Guard along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ).
The ban will remain in place, with limited exceptions, for a span of six months. The bridge got stuck at least five times in 2018, prompting workers to hit it with sledge hammers to bang the rails back into position.
Over 200,000 Amtrak and NJ Transit commuters depend on the bridge daily.
“This is a temporary fix to a much larger problem,” stated Sen. Menendez.
New Jersey lawmakers are pushing for a $1.5 billion Portal Bridge replacement, along with a larger $30 billion project that would build a new rail tunnel into New York City, known as the Gateway. However, President Donald Trump has thus far denied federal funding for the project.
“We are fully prepare do move forward with the construction of the new bridge once we receive the federal dollars,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
A new Portal Bridge would be 50 feet higher, allowing boats and trains to pass without the bridge having to open.
“Having a movable bridge in this spot doesn’t make any sense,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz. Amtrak operates the Portal Bridge. “It’s like putting a draw bridge in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike.”