Crews building a “bridge within a bridge,” as part of $1B Bayonne Bridge clearance expansion

Updated May 9, 2015
Progress on the project as of May 4th.Progress on the project as of May 4th.

The world’s fourth largest arch bridge is undergoing upgrades to raise it to new levels.

The $1.3 billion ongoing project to renovate the Bayonne Bridge connecting Bayonne, New Jersey, to Staten Island, New York, is raising the clearance of the bridge 64 feet, according to the Hudson Reporter. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program (BBNCP) will raise the bridge to 215 feet in order to allow for larger ships to deliver goods into the Newark Bay.

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A new bridge was considered, but it would have cost $2.4 billion and taken much more time to complete. BBNCP Director Joann Papageorgis told the Hudson Reporter that the Bayonne project raises the bridge and completes other repairs—all while not interrupting maritime service or closing the bridge.

“This is a civil engineering landmark,” Papageorgis said. “… You’re building a bridge within a bridge, while keeping it open.”

Crews are using a horizontal crane to install 100-ton precast lengths of roadway shipped in by barge from Virginia, according to the Reporter.

The need to raise the bridge became apparent when the Panama Canal expansion began in 2007. The expansion is expected to open the canal up to larger ships that need a clearance of up to 200 feet.

As to not be left behind once the larger ships start making their way to ports across the East Coast, the Port Authority began looking at options to open the Newark Bay up to the “post-Panamax” world.

Once complete, the bridge and the expanding Port Newark Container Terminal will open the northeast up to the post-Panamax ships. The Port Authority said the larger ships not only will be a financial boon to the region, they also mean cleaner air because the ships are more efficient.

The project has created more that 2,500 construction jobs and $380 million in wages. Once complete, the bridge will have wider lanes, a walkway, a bikeway, new piers, a new roadway deck and new approach roads.

The project is expected to be complete by 2018.