The $743 million Raise the Roadway project for the Bayonne Bridge is clicking on all cylinders, with the expected completion of a gantry crane to move materials across the span, an increased optimism from some area residents, and about a quarter of the work completed.
The project will ultimately lift the roadway 65 feet higher, to 215 feet, to allow taller ships to pass under it. These bigger ships are expected when the Panama Canal expansion project is completed in a few years.
As of late November, the gantry crane, which will roll on top of the bridge’s arch and deliver one rope-supported section of the new roadway each time, was 95 percent complete, according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. A load and performance test of the gantry was expected to be performed this month.
The gantry will transport pre-cast roadway slabs to new piers currently being constructed for the bridge. Thirteen new piers are being built on the New Jersey side of the bridge and 11 new piers will be constructed on the New York side in Staten Island.
“We’re about 25-percent complete. A little over 25 percent,” said Port Authority spokesman Chris Valens in an interview on Dec. 8. “Basically, on the northbound roadway the drill shaft is 70 percent done and the foundations are 20-percent complete.”
The drill shaft is drilling the foundation for the new piers.
After the first gantry is completed, it will begin its transportation work.
“It sort of moves along the roadway; it puts the pieces of the new roadway in their proper places,” Valens said. “Foundations and pier construction, that’s the phase we’re in now.”
This portion will last for about six months, causing the 20-minute holds, where traffic will be halted for that period of time, Valens said. The pieces will be driven to the construction site, and then placed by the gantry where they should go. A second gantry will join the first one next year.
Fewer piers will be needed for the new bridge, compared to the original, because of higher efficiency in new construction techniques.
The current work will result in one lane of traffic in each direction being completed on the new 215-foot deck in the summer of 2016. The project is on schedule for the entire bridge to be finished in 2017, with two lanes of traffic in each direction, a shoulder on each side, a median barrier, and a 12-foot-wide shared walkway.
Work is also continuing on a structure being built adjacent to the Avenue A ramp at West 6th Street. The single-story building will house electrical and mechanical equipment supporting systems on the new bridge, including power distribution panels, an emergency generator, and fire standby pumps, according to Valens.
The completion date was pushed back a few months because of the harsh winter last year, and there is no specific estimate as to when in 2017 work will wrap up.
“I think we’ll know as we get closer,” Valens said.
Conversations with some area residents indicated they believed the toughest part of the project was over for them.
“We’re about 25-percent complete.” – Chris Valens
Doug Torres of West 5th Street said the loud noises and broken water lines and windows seemed to be a thing of the past.
“It got to be annoying at times,” Torres said. “But I think the worst is over.”
While Jamie Morreale-Panariello, a 50-year resident of the same block, was not thrilled with the project’s beginning, she is less apprehensive about it now.
“There’s nothing we can do here to stop the wheels of time,” she said. “Life goes on, technology goes on, and things get bigger and better. What they are doing is pretty amazing.”
Inconveniences, such as tougher parking conditions, are things she has come to terms with as the project moves on.
She is still concerned, however, about the quality of air in the area. She noted that the filter on her CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for sleep apnea must be changed weekly, rather than monthly, since Raise the Roadway began.
Barbara Kirk, a resident of Kennedy Boulevard, said the project “is not affecting us much anymore, almost not at all. We hear the pounding, but it’s construction, what can you do?”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.