SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez announced new restrictions on the swing-span Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.

The new rules now in effect limit the times when the 108-year-old Portal Bridge can open. The hope is that will reduce the number of disruptions on northeast corridor train traffic, reports CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

“Every time the Portal Bridge fails, the disruptions spread across our transport system like the plague. And it’s much worse when the Portal Bridge fails during peak hours,” Menendez said.

In 2018, the bridge failed to close properly five times, causing major disruptions for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT riders. A malfunction of 90 minutes last October delayed 80,000 riders. CBS2 did a series of report demanding answers, and that got Menendez’s attention.

“Your stories visualized it and sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. But what you visualized is felt as pain by riders. As I pointed out, every time that bridge opened and wouldn’t close, hundreds of thousands of commuters in the day who are affected by it, and that’s enormous,” Menendez said. “I’m worried one day sledgehammers aren’t going to close that bridge sufficiently enough.”

Crews with sledgehammers are on standby because when the bridge opens to let boats through it can get stuck, and has to be forced back into place.

Menendez was appalled and brokered a temporary solution that went into effect Thursday. The U.S. Coast guard agrees the bridge can’t open and close from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the next six months.

A replacement bridge built high enough to avoid having to open or close is estimated to cost $1.5 billion but it does not have the full funding.

 

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