DOWNTOWN NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — It’s a pedestrian bridge, much like the now world-renowned High Line in Manhattan, that will be built here in New Jersey’s largest city. How soon the project will become a reality is still quite unclear, even though state and city authorities say it’s thoroughly planned and financed. 

The $110 million project, the Mulberry Commons Pedestrian Bridge, is designed to be far more than just an elevated walkway. It’s intended to unite neighborhoods separated for more than 150 years by a railyard and significant roadway.

That rail and road combination — of the Newark Penn Station elevated railyard and McCarter Highway — form a barrier that cuts the city in two. It separates the Ironbound neighborhood in the East Ward, with its many homes, restaurants and shops, from the business district and Prudential Center arena in the Central Ward.

On Tuesday at noon, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka led a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mulberry Commons Bridge project.

It will transform a rusted, condemned freight rail bridge across McCarter Highway into the pedestrian and commuter link when finished. It would also make dodging traffic on the seven-lane highway a thing of the past once it’s completed. 

Alex Cuyh was among the local commuters who said they were looking forward to the project’s completion. 

“Right now, it looks different,” he said about Newark’s downtown area. “When I come in a few months,” he said, “it’ll look like, ‘Wow, I’m surprised.’ That’ll be great, you know,” he added.

Brian Pleasant, a resident who crosses all seven lanes of McCarter Highway nearly daily, said that the bridge project adds to Newark’s general trend of improvements. 

“This area has been building up a lot,” he said, pointing to at least two residential towers that have opened in Central Newark this year. “So I’m pretty confident,” Pleasant continued, “I’m pretty confident that they can transform.”

The timetable he and Cuyh said they’d hoped for construction to begin appears to be different than what the people in charge of the project have in mind.

When asked how soon the bridge may open and serve people, Mayor Baraka was unclear.

“There’s some discussion,” he said. “We’ll have that debate outside of you guys,” he said, referring to news media members on hand for the event. 

Gov. Murphy was somewhat more specific. 

“I’ve been told this is an 18- to 24-month time frame,” he said. “I hope that turns out to be true. These projects are complicated, so they tend to take longer than you think or hope.”

After the groundbreaking, PIX11 News spoke with Evans Anyanwu, the project director for the Mulberry Commons Pedestrian Bridge project. He said that the project is fully funded and that a date to begin construction would be set after all of the parties involved, including Amtrak, NJTransit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the city and state, agreed to a date that fits with their service needs.

He said that the date to begin construction will likely be sometime next year.