The Trump administration on Monday upgraded the priority rating for the Portal Bridge replacement project, finally positioning the construction work in line for the federal funding that would allow it to begin.

The $1.5 billion project is separate from the related $10+ billion Gateway tunnel project, which remains stuck at a “medium-low” priority because of continuing concerns over how New Jersey and New York would fund their share of building two new Hudson River rail tunnels and repairing the existing ones.

But replacing the Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River in Hudson County is now rated a “medium-high” priority by the Federal Transit Administration, according to funding recommendations made public with President Donald Trump’s proposed 2021 federal budget.

The change comes after the Murphy administration doubled the state’s contribution for it to $600 million in borrowed funds.

“Today’s decision by USDOT puts us one step closer toward our ultimate goal: replacing this unreliable, century-old bridge and reducing delays for NJ Transit customers,” Murphy said. “New Jersey remains ready and willing to work cooperatively as a full partner to ensure that this project, which affects the commutes of tens of thousands of our residents daily, is completed as expeditiously as possible.”

“Now we need the new tunnel to also move forward to finally provide 21st century rail transportation into and out of the nation's economic heart,” said Gateway Program Development Corp. chairman Steven Cohen, who called Portal and the current tunnels “antiquated workhorses.”

Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation applauded the new rating for Portal, even though the rest of Gateway wasn’t upgraded.

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“Jobs, increased safety, economic development — Gateway is the key to all of these for our state, and the broader region,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Ewing. “We’ve already done the work of ensuring there are funds available — this clearance from DOT unlocks the ability to get this project moving.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at