It seems that the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program – the $1.4 billion dollar project that will raise the height of the bottom of the bridge span from 151 feet to 215 feet – has come under fire recently, primarily because of unclear prognostications about the project.
Last month, Coalition for Healthy Ports, along with two Staten Island-based organizations and the NRDC (the Coalition) filed a law suit questioning the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s (PANYNJ) assertions that the project will have a minimal impact on the overall volume of cargo handled by the Port of New York and New Jersey (PONYNJ). Of particular concern is the potential negative impact on air quality that might result if the impact is understated.
To understand the Coalition’s concerns, it is helpful to talk about the PANYNJ’s stated basis for the project.
The Bayonne Bridge connects Staten Island to New Jersey by passing over the Kill van Kull, the waterway that connects Newark Bay with New York Harbor. Currently, the bridge is 151 feet above the waterline – enough to handle most of the ships currently in the global fleet (called Panamax ships). However, with the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal, ships are getting bigger (“Post-Panamax” ships) hence the need to increase the Bayonne Bridge’s clearance. If the bridge isn’t raised, the Port would stand to lose business; the majority of carriers said “they may need to bypass the Port of NY/NJ in the future if the Bayonne Bridge remains a restriction” because Post-Panamax ships “will be deployed on most relevant trade routes whether the Port of New York and New Jersey can accept them or not.”