The Trump administration has cleared a long-stalled railroad bridge project in New Jersey to advance toward construction and pledged $766.6 million in grant funding for the work, reports Politico.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao approved the start of the engineering phase for the $1.87 billion Portal North, a replacement span for the two-track, swing-style Portal Bridge that had become a major bottleneck on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said.
According to Politico, the FTA was in the process of notifying NJ Transit, the project sponsor, and others involved in the undertaking on June 19.
“FTA will continue to work with New Jersey Transit (NJT) as it progresses toward full completion of the requirements in law, needed to receive a” full-funding agreement, an FTA spokesperson said in a statement.
The existing Portal Bridge, which is 110 years old and carries about 450 Amtrak and NJT trains over the Hackensack River daily, had become a source of severe delays for trains running into and out of Manhattan. The bridge would often become stuck in the open position, cutting off the busiest rail corridor in America.
The replacement project had been held up in recent years as President Donald Trump delayed the Gateway Program, a $30 billion capital plan that includes the bridge and construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The hold on the program was said to be linked to the president’s animosity for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a major booster of the initiative.
Murphy and his aides had lobbied the FTA — and Trump directly — to weigh the merits of the bridge projects on its own. The president, after having dinner with Murphy at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, last week tweeted that he would support the Portal Bridge.