KEARNY — Ground was broken for Amtrak's project to replace the century old Portal Bridge.

The $1.5 billion project to replace the swing bridge, which carries 450 trains over the Hackensack River in Kearny daily will higher and fixed meaning it will not have to open for maritime traffic. Some preliminary construction activities, such as installing new fiber optic cable poles and a retaining wall, have already begun.

A second bridge that will double capacity will also be built.

(Craig Schultz/Amtrak)

"I’ve explained to both President Obama and now President Trump that the Gateway Tunnel without the Portal Bridge is a useless exercise. That the Portal Bridge is a vital part of making the entire project work the way it’s supposed to work and today, we’re getting that first and important, indispensable part of this project going now because of the commitment of both New York and New Jersey, our federal partners, and our partners at the Port Authority," Gov. Chris Christie said at the groundbreaking.

Christie also defended his decision not to build the ARC tunnel, which would have built a rail tunnel under the Hudson River, ending at New York Penn Station.

"I have always believed that 'some project' is not better than the right project. Sometimes you have to fight hard and take the abuse that comes along with it, to fight for the right project. That is what I’ve been doing for the last eight years."

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said on Twitter that the project fills the need for "high quality infrastructure to grow our economy."

"Infrastructure investment benefits all. For businesses: huge savings. For workers: faster transit. For families: a healthier environment," Menendez said.

"Portal Bridge and the Gateway Project will make commutes easier for my constituents and everyone else in the Boston to D.C. corridor," Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J. 10th District, said on Twitter. He noted that he will continue to fight for federal funding for the bridge.

Amtrak chairman Tony Corsica said the new bridge "will improve reliability on the Northeast Corridor, benefiting both New York and New Jersey, as well as the region and nation as a whole," according to NJ Biz.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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