The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Wednesday it expects to have finished enough of the work rebuilding the Bayonne Bridge in 2015 to allow larger ships to pass underneath it when the Panama Canal opens its new set of locks that year.
The port authority said it had figured out a way that it can shave six months off the timetable for the $1 billion bridge reconstruction, which involves raising the road deck of the bridge so that it is 212 feet instead of 151 feet above the Kill Van Kull, the waterway beneath it.
Ships calling at most of the port’s container terminals - those located on Staten Island, NY and in Elizabeth and Newark, N.J. - must pass beneath the bridge.
The port authority is planning to reconstruct the bridge, which connects Bayonne, N.J. with Staten Island, while allowing drivers to continue using it.
It plans to do that by building a new higher road deck into the steel arch bridge while drivers continue to use the existing lower road deck. Then the lower road deck will be demolished, allowing larger ships to pass beneath it while construction crews complete the project on the higher road deck, sharing the space with drivers.
Pat Foye, executive director of the agency, said “rather than completing removal of the deck in mid-2016 it will now be completed in the fall of 2015.”
Removal of the old deck is the critical step that will allow ships to pass beneath it.
Whether that will actually precede or coincide with the opening of the new canal locks or miss the date by a several months is unclear.
The Panama Canal told American Shipper
in a statement Wednesday that it expects the “locks will be open to commerce in the second quarter of 2015.”
In a statement it attributed to Jorge Quijano, deputy administrator, the Panama Canal said “the locks contractor is scheduled to finish the locks themselves in the first quarter of 2014. Then they will begin the installation of valves, gates, electrical systems and controls, followed by testing of these elements in the dry.
“The plan continues with the filling of the locks in the third quarter of 2014, which includes testing with water. These tests are crucial since there are important penalties for not complying with the established times of filling and emptying of the locks and the opening and closing of the gates as established in the contract," the canal authority said.
“Once the tests conclude, the works be will accepted. Then there will be a training period before the locks open up for commercial traffic. Thus, it is estimated that the locks will be open to commerce in the second quarter of 2015," it added.
The New York and New Jersey Port Authority said it has prequalified five construction teams seeking to bid on the Bayonne Bridge project. They are:
- American Bridge (American Bridge, Tutor-Perini, Traylor Bros.).
- Bayonne Bridge Builders, Joint Venture (Schiavone Construction Co., Granite Construction Northeast, Yonkers Contracting Co., Defoe Corp.).
- CRJD Bayonne (Conti Enterprises, J.H.Reid General Contractor, Judlau Contracting, DYWIDAG-Systems International USA).
- Flatiron/EE Cruz/Tully, A Joint Venture (Flatiron Constructors, E.E. Cruz and Co., Tully Construction).
- Skanska Koch – Kiewit JV Team (Skanska Koch, Kiewit Infrastructure Co.).
The port authority said it has begun some work, such as lead paint removal, on the bridge in advance of actual construction and expects to award the contract for the project next April after obtaining federal, state, and local permits.
Officials said the project is important because of the positive impact the port has on employment and the local economy.
David Samson, chairman of the agency, also said the use of larger ships would lower the cost of goods to consumers in the region and create environmental benefits by having fewer, larger ships call the port.
How significant that decrease in cost will actually be to consumers is unclear.
Scudder Smith, an analyst with Parsons Brinkerhoff, said if half the savings that a shipping company using a 13,000-TEU ship to move cargo from Asia to the United States were passed on to consumers and beneficial cargo owners that might amount to a savings of $200 per TEU—which might have only a small impact on the cost of goods in a container carrying $100,000 worth of merchandise. The expansion of the canal was the subject of the May cover story American Shipper
and Smith’s analysis is found in the latest issue of his firm’s magazine EFR
James R. Brennan, a partner at the consulting firm Norbridge, said that improved Bayonne Bridge clearance will allow New York to maintain its status as the preferred first inbound port of call for services coming from Asia via the Panama Canal. - Chris Dupin