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Port Authority OKs $3B in bridge projects

An artist rendering of the proposed Goethals Bridge

An artist rendering of the proposed Goethals Bridge replacement. (April 24, 2013) Credit: Handout

A replacement for the aging Goethals Bridge is among nearly $3 billion in public-works projects the Port Authority approved Wednesday.

Work on the Goethals and two other projects -- raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge to allow larger cargo ships to pass and resurfacing the Outerbridge Crossing -- is set to begin later this year, officials said.

All the bridges connect Staten Island and New Jersey. The projects are expected to create about 5,000 jobs and spur more than $2.5 billion in economic activity for the region.

"This action will create thousands of jobs and serve as a major economic boost for New York and New Jersey," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

The Goethals Bridge, nearly 85 years old, has four narrow lanes and is famous for its congestion. The new bridge, to be built south of the existing span, will feature wider lanes and 12-foot shoulders, officials said. Pathways will be set aside for pedestrians and bicyclists. It will also be built to accommodate mass transit in the future.

This marks the first time the Port Authority will build a bridge since 1931, when the George Washington Bridge opened. The $1.5-billion price will be financed through a public-private partnership, officials said. The Port Authority tapped a consortium led by Omaha-based Kiewit Corp. to design, build, finance and maintain the bridge.

The deck of the 81-year-old Bayonne Bridge will be raised by 64 feet, and it will have shoulders, a median divider and wider lanes. It, too, will have bike and pedestrian paths and will be built to accommodate mass transit across its span.

Construction of the new deck will be built above the existing roadway while motorists continue to use the existing lanes, officials said.

The new Goethals Bridge is expected to open to traffic in 2016. Officials said the Bayonne Bridge work, estimated to cost $1.3 billion, should be completed in 2015. Resurfacing the Outerbridge Crossing is expected to be finished by the end of this year.

"In the short term, the projects put thousands of people to work," said Thomas Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. "In the longer term, the projects will allow an entire new generation of large container ships to access our port, keeping it vibrant, bringing new business to the state and creating thousands more jobs."

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