TRENTON – The Portal North Bridge project, which will ease disruptions caused by antiquated infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor rail line, has been issued a ‘notice to proceed,’ state and transportation officials announced Thursday.

The construction will eliminate a 110-year-old swing bridge that often messes with NJ Transit and Amtrak operations. It’s also a key part of the larger Gateway Program that will improve service and eventually double capacity between Newark and New York by adding another Hudson River rail tunnel.

“After years of crucial behind-the-scenes work, this notice to proceed means train customers will soon see tangible evidence of our commitment to modernizing the rail system,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

“This notice to proceed means that soon construction will begin – improving reliability for the millions of customers who count on this critical rail link between New Jersey and New York every year, while creating jobs and spurring economic growth for our region,” said Kevin Corbett, president and chief executive officer of NJ Transit.

Amtrak board chairman Tony Coscia said the Portal North Bridge construction becomes the first of the Gateway projects to begin major construction. It is expected to take around five and a half years to complete, which would mean late 2027.

“The new bridge rising over the Hackensack River will be a visible reminder to Northeast Corridor passengers that a new day is dawning for rail travel in America – safer, faster and more reliable,” Coscia said.

The existing Portal Bridge will be replaced with a new modern two-track, high-level, fixed-span bridge that will improve service and capacity along this section of the Northeast Corridor. It will be 50 feet over the Hackensack River, allowing marine traffic to pass without interrupting rail traffic.

The Portal North Bridge project spans 2.44 miles of the Northeast Corridor line and includes the construction of retaining walls, deep foundations, concrete piers, structural steel bridge spans, rail systems and demolition of the existing bridge.

The state and federal governments are paying for the project, which will be supported by $766.5 million in Federal Transit Administration funds.

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In October, NJ Transit approved a $1.56 billion construction contract for the project to Skanska/Traylor Bros PNB Joint Venture, the single largest construction award in NJ Transit history.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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