KEARNEY, NJ (PIX11) –The Portal North Bridge, the busiest rail bridge in the United States, responsible for 20% of the country’s economic activity– is officially getting replaced.
State and federal leaders were on hand in Kearney, New Jersey for the groundbreaking. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg headlined the event. He dug dirt alongside Gov. Phil Murphy, Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, and other members of the New Jersey’s congressional delegation.
“Finally, the most important infrastructure project in the entire nation is being kicked off,” Murphy declared.
The new $1.5 billion bridge will be paid for half by New Jersey and half by the Federal government thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure package passed late last year. The new structure will no longer be a drawbridge, instead sitting 50 feet over the Hackensack River, eliminating a problem that has plagued commuters and commerce for decades.
“Sometimes when this bridge needs to be closed after its opening, workers have to get out their sledgehammer and pound the rails back into alignment,” Buttigieg said. “It would be frustrating anywhere, but it’s not acceptable at the busiest rail bridge in the country.”
However, talk amidst the powerful group of New Jersey lawmakers has already turned to the next big spending package in Washington.
Democrats are branding it the Inflation Reduction Act. It combats climate change through green energy investment, lowers prescription drug prices and raises taxes on big businesses.
However, the act does not eliminate the state and local tax deduction cap, known as the SALT cap. Eliminating it could save millions of tri-state area residents thousands of dollars each year. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat, has often said any tax changes without eliminating the SALT cap would mean no deal.
“Very happy with the provisions to tackle climate change, and lower prescription drug costs, those are all great things,” he said. “But I have to see the impact on families in my district, it’s what I always say, so we are studying that, and we’ll get back to you.”
But other New Jersey Democrats, including Congressman Tom Malinowski, told us the Inflation Reduction Act was too important to hold up.
“Listen, there’s nothing my constituents are going to be happier about them lowering the cost of prescription drugs and making Amazon pay taxes for a change,” Malinowski said.
The Portal Bridge we will be a partially open in about four years and the brand new bridge should be complete in about five and a half years.