Portal Bridge

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Portal Bridge
Portal Bridge.jpg
Carries Northeast Corridor
Crosses Hackensack River
Locale New Jersey Meadowlands
Owner Amtrak
Design Pratt truss swing bridge
Material Bessemer steel
Total length 961 ft (293 m)
Number of spans 6 deck girder + 1 swing span
Clearance below 23 ft (7.0 m)
Constructed by Pennsylvania Steel Company
Inaugurated 1910
Coordinates 40°45′13″N 74°5′41″W / 40.75361°N 74.09472°W / 40.75361; -74.09472Coordinates: 40°45′13″N 74°5′41″W / 40.75361°N 74.09472°W / 40.75361; -74.09472
Portal Bridge is located in New York City
Portal Bridge
Portal Bridge
Portal Bridge from Interstate 95

The Portal Bridge is a rail bridge over the Hackensack River just west of Secaucus Junction in northeastern New Jersey, USA. The two-track, moveable swing-span between the towns of Kearny and Secaucus is owned and operated by Amtrak and also used by New Jersey Transit Rail Operations.

Originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and opened in 1910 in conjunction with service to the newly constructed Pennsylvania Station in New York City, the bridge is obsolete, limiting train speeds to 60mph. It is so low that it often has to be opened to allow commercial boats to pass underneath it causing more delays and been called the Achilles' heel of the Northeast Corridor.

Existing design and engineering plans for the bridge's replacement call for two fixed bridges.[1] Work has stalled due to lack of funding and as of 2014 funding for the $940 million to build it had not been identified.[2][3]


The center-bearing swing bridge is 961 feet (293 m) long and when closed to river traffic, bears upon six wedge blocks. Two blocks are at each end of the Bridge while two more sit adjacent to the center-bearing. After the wedges are withdrawn the center-bearing supports the structure as the bridge is opened and returns it to its closed position once the river traffic has passed through one or both of the navigation channels. The Bridge requires millions of dollars of yearly maintenance.[4][5] Some of the bridge machinery was updated in 1931. Minor repairs were made in the 1970s, and major repairs to structural mechanical and electrical equipment were completed as part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Improvement Project between 1982 and 1984 by William F. Hegarty, Inc. of East Hanover, NJ.

As of 2011, Amtrak operated some 103 scheduled trains in both directions over this segment of the Northeast Corridor between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. Four of NJ Transit’s rail lines (Northeast Corridor Line, North Jersey Coast Line, Morris and Essex Lines, Montclair-Boonton Line) with 393 trains each weekday in both directions use the bridge.

According to New Jersey Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles, the bridge is considered a "chokepoint" which reduces the potential speed and capacity of the line.[6][7] The bridge's lowest beams are just 23 ft (7 m) above the surface of the river, necessitating that the bridge be opened almost daily for commercial boat traffic, and causing considerable train delays. Drawbridge schedules allow for Portal Draw to be exempt for opening weekdays 6 am to 10 am, and 4 pm to 8 pm (during peak commuter travel periods over the bridge). The bridge opens on signal at other times.[8]


The bridge was site of a derailment in November 1996. Amtrak's Fast Mail Train No. 12, with twelve passenger and mail coaches pulled by two locomotives on a Washington-to-Boston run with 88 passengers and 20 crew members, derailed as it reached the bridge. It sideswiped an oncoming passenger train, but continued across the bridge, prevented from plunging through the trestles into the river by guide rails that parallel the main tracks. Then its twin locomotives, a baggage car, and three passenger coaches plunged over an embankment. There were no deaths; thirty four people were hospitalized.[9]


In December 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration approved a $1.34 billion project to replace the Portal Bridge with two new bridges—a three-track bridge to the north, and a two-track bridge to the south. The new bridges were scheduled to be completed in 2017, at which time the Portal Bridge was to be dismantled. In 2009, New Jersey applied for $38.5 million in funding for the replacement from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[10] On January 28, 2010, the federal funds were released as a TIGER grant.[11] The funds will go toward final design for the new bridge.[12][13][14]

The original timeline for the project called for construction of the new bridge to begin in 2010, with the bridge replacement to be complete by 2017.[15] However, partly due to cancellation of the Access to the Region's Core project, as well as limited funding, this original plan was reduced to a single two-track bridge constructed north of the current bridge. As of fall 2012, final engineering is scheduled to be completed in early 2013 and no construction timeline has been given.[16] The new bridge will be a part of the Amtrak Gateway Project, estimated to cost $13.5 billion.[17][18][19] In April 2011, Amtrak applied for federal funding of $570 million for construction, with New Jersey expected to commit $150 million.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/nyregion/portal-bridge-presents-northeast-rail-commuters-with-a-104-year-old-problem.html
  2. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-jerseys-portal-bridge-bane-of-the-northeast-corridor-is-due-for-upgrade/2014/11/15/36c34662-6d1e-11e4-a31c-77759fc1eacc_story.html
  3. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/nyregion/portal-bridge-presents-northeast-rail-commuters-with-a-104-year-old-problem.html
  4. ^ Belsen, Ken (2008-12-31). "Approval Given for New Jersey Rail Bridges". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  5. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (2005-05-19). "Repairing Rail Bridge in Kearny May Take a Year, Amtrak Says". New York Times. 
  6. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20090825_NJ_moves_to_replace_key_N_E__Corridor_rail_bridge.html
  7. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (2005-05-19). "Repairing New Jersey Bridge May Take a Year, Amtrak Says". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ U.S. Coast Guard. "Drawbridge Operation Rregulations: Hackensack River." Code of Federal Regulations, 33 C.F.R. 117.723.
  9. ^ McFadden, Robert D (November 25, 1996). "Broken Bars on Drawbridge Are Blamed in Amtrak Crash". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  10. ^ Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York, NY (2009-01-08). "Feds Open 'Portal' to Expansion of NJ Transit's Network."
  11. ^ "High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program". Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  12. ^ Frassinelli, Mike (2010-01-28). "NJ Transit announces $38.5M for Portal Bridge project, names executive director". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  13. ^ "Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement". Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, U.S Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  14. ^ Whiten, Jon (2010-02-08). "Advocates Want Bike/Ped Path as Part of Portal Bridge Project". Jersey City Independent. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  15. ^ "AECOM JV Bags US$18 Mln Contract For New Jersey's Portal Bridge Replacement Project - Quick Facts". RTT News. January 5, 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  16. ^ http://www.portalbridgenec.com/PE/projecttimeline.html
  17. ^ Frassinelli, MIke (February 6, 2011). "N.J. senators, Amtrak official to announce new commuter train tunnel project across the Hudson". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-02-07. 
  18. ^ "Gateway Project" (PDF). Amtrak. February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-07. 
  19. ^ Fleisher, Liza; Grossman, Andrew (February 8, 2011), "Amtrak's Plan For New Tunnel Gains Support", The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2011-02-08 
  20. ^ "Amtrak Seeks $1.3 billion for Gateway Project and Next-Generation High-Speed Rail on NEC". Amtrak. April 4, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-08. 
  21. ^ Jackson, Herb (April 4, 2011), "Amtrak seeking $1.3B for Hudson River tunnel planning, bridge replacement", The Record, retrieved 201-04-10  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

External links[edit]