Hundreds of construction workers and shipping industry representatives were on hand Wednesday as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, touted the benefits of raising the roadbed of the Bayonne Bridge from 151 to 215 feet so that larger ships can pass beneath it.
At an event that felt much like a political rally - Christie is running for reelection this year - the governor said he had pushed the bridge rehabilitation project to the top of the port authority's agenda because he was told without it, "this was really going to stick a knife in the heart of our port."
Christie also touted the fact that the project will create about 2,500 construction jobs.
A joint venture of Skanska Koch, Inc./Kiewit Infrastructure Co. is the primary contractor for the project. A second, higher roadway will be built over the existing roadbed, allowing the bridge to remain open while it is modified. Skanska said preliminary work on the project has begun. While removal of the lower roadway is planned in late 2015, allowing big ships to pass beneath it, work will continue on the bridge through 2017.
The higher bridge will allow larger containerships, which are expected to call the port in increased numbers once the third set of locks on the Panama Canal are opened in 2015.
Ships calling at the port's major container terminals west of the bridge - in Elizabeth, Newark, and on Staten Island - are restricted in height because they must pass beneath the bridge.
The Global Container Terminal in Bayonne is located east of the Bayonne Bridge, and can accommodate those taller ships today, and that was an attraction to the G6 alliance when it decided to have its trans-Suez Canal China East Coast Express (CEC) service call there, starting this month.
But James Devine, president and chief executive officer of GCT USA, noted his company also operates the New York Container Terminal west of the bridge, and that will be one of the terminals which will benefit from the higher roadbed.
While some ships similar in size to the 8,800-TEU ships in the CEC service are calling terminals west of the Bayonne Bridge today, some were designed specifically so they could call New York. - Chris Dupin