The bridge ultimately will be part of an 18.5-mile waterfront bike and walking path from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.
Officials broke ground on Monday morning on the Long Slip pedestrian bridge, which will extend across a canal behind the historic Hoboken train and ferry terminal.
Whenever a developer builds on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, they are required to build a segment of the walkway, as per state law. In the case of the bridge, it is being built by NJ Transit.
Almost 15 miles of the walkway are already in place, connecting to parks, piers, and yards.
On the Jersey City side of Long Slip, a temporary walkway will be built by the Newport Associates Development Company, which is owned by Newport developer LeFrak. The walkway is scheduled to be completed at the same time as the pedestrian bridge.
The Long Slip bridge is being constructed by Simpson & Brown, Inc., of West Cranford, as per a $6.4 million contract with NJ Transit.
The Long Slip pedestrian bridge will create a direct path for pedestrian traffic to access PATH and commuter trains, ferries, and the light rail.
"Today, most of those residents take the light rail because there really isn't a good walking option," said Dan Stessel, a spokesman for NJ Transit, as he cited the simultaneous benefit to the company and its customers in creating a pedestrian connection between mass transit systems.Joining neighbors
At the Feb. 11 ceremony, NJ Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles introduced local and state officials including Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
Referencing his support of the Waterfront Walkway since being a congressman, Menendez thanked Gov. Jon Corzine for replenishing the state Transportation Trust Fund with the $8.8 million to help fund the pedestrian bridge project.
Roberts was pleased to see construction begin, saying the bridge would lead more foot traffic to the "epicenter" of the waterfront. When Healy took his turn at the mic, he joked that he had to disagree with Roberts, saying he felt the epicenter was "a little further south," referring to Jersey City.
DeGise was enthusiastic about filling this gap in links between the county's waterfront municipalities, as well as the environmentally friendly modes of transportation such as walking and biking.
"I think the best part is we're trying to keep people out of cars and make it a little bit easier to get around our county without using them," DeGise said after the press conference. "For people from Hoboken, it's a short walk to Newport Mall and to all the retail that's gone up over there. And for people from Jersey City, it's a short walk over to trains that may be able to take them to work."
DeGise added, "Just for people like me to be able to take a stroll or a bike ride from one part of Jersey City maybe all the way up into North Hudson, and eventually Bergen County, that's pretty exciting."
He said the walkway also will be an inviting place for skateboarders and joggers.
Roberts said, "This supports Hoboken businesses. This affords our neighbors to the south an opportunity to walk to Hoboken on a very nice spring evening and shop on our main street, enjoy many of our fine restaurants, walk to the waterfront and enjoy our Movies Under the Stars or our superb concert series." Not covered
So, will people actually use the bridge?
Martin, a 15-year-old skateboarder in the area, said, "Well, I skate a lot, so it'd probably be useful." He said he and his friend Austin would skateboard on it.
But Kerwin Umali, a Jersey City resident who comes to Hoboken often, said that he would be unlikely to use the open bridge most of the year, since it's over water without any cover.
"It's possible in the summer," said Umali. "But I think when the winter season comes, [using the bridge] is not appropriate."