Plenty of attention has been focused recently on the old age of much of the New York Metropolitan Area’s public transportation infrastructure. From the Northeast Corridor’s Portal Bridge between Kearny and Secaucus and the tunnel under the Hudson River that is used by New Jersey Transit and Amtrak to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subway system, much of the region’s passenger rail network relies on construction from the turn of the 20th century.
Yet aging infrastructure in the country’s most populated region not only impacts commuter rail but also affects the freight trains that transport cargo throughout the Northeast. For instance, the lower Passaic River’s last bridge to be exclusively used by freight trains dates back well over a century. Located in the shadow of the New Jersey Turnpike, the Point-No-Point Bridge, which connects Newark’s East Ward in Essex County with South Kearny in Hudson County, was constructed in 1901 and is still in active use to this day.
However, the end could soon be near for this swing span crossing, which is owned by Philadelphia-based Conrail and used by CSX and Norfolk Southern trains on the Passaic and Harsimus Line. A legal notice shows that Conrail has applied to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for Waterfront Development, Freshwater Wetlands, and Flood Hazard Area permits in order to begin the process of replacing the bridge. The notice states that the crossing “has aged beyond its useful service life” and adds that its replacement is “important to Conrail operations and local and regional economic stability and development.”
Jocelyn Hill, Conrail’s Director of Corporate Affairs, confirmed the replacement plans to Jersey Digs and explained that this bridge is a critical link between facilities near Port Newark and the Kearny rail yards.
The bridge suffered some damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to a Conrail presentation. In addition, a 2015 report by several environmental groups including the NY/NJ Riverkeeper mentioned that the structure “shows signs of crumbling bricks and cracks at its base” while other organizations like the Hackensack Riverkeeper have expressed concerns over the years.
When asked if the bridge is currently in safe condition, Hill stated in part that “we do inspect our bridges multiple times a year in accordance with regulations,” but added that “it’s a hundred-year-old bridge. We do try to look towards maintaining our physical plant and planning out our capital needs to ensure that we can plan for the capital expense involved.”
The notice states that the current plan by Conrail calls for building a bascule bridge on an alignment between the existing Point-No-Point Bridge and the Turnpike. A new access road would also be constructed “for maintenance and safety purposes.”
Construction on a replacement bridge could begin in 2020 or 2021 should the project continue to advance, according to Hill.