Port engineers determined that replacing the Goethals Bridge would be more cost-effective than repairing it.

NEW YORK CITY-The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday authorized a 40-year design-build-finance-maintain contract to the NYNJ Link Partnership as part of a $1.5-billion public-private partnership to replace the Goethals Bridge between Staten Island Elizabeth, NJ. At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the Port Authority’s board also approved a $743.3-million contract to raise the Bayonne Bridge connecting that New Jersey city with Staten Island, and a $35-million repaving of the Outerbridge Crossing that links the island with Perth Amboy, NJ.

The replacement Goethals span marks the Port’s first bridge construction project since the George Washington Bridge between Manhattan and Fort Lee, NJ opened in 1931. It reflects agency engineers’ judgment that replacing the aging Goethals would be more cost-effective than repairing it.

In what’s reportedly the first true PPP for a surface transportation project in the Northeast, the Port will maintain control of the new Goethals Bridge while having access to private-sector construction and maintenance expertise as well as private capital. It will save the Port an estimated 10% in combined construction and maintenance costs over the life of the agreement versus its own project estimates, while minimizing any impact to the agency’s debt capacity, according to a release.

For its part, the developer will benefit from access of up to $500 million in a low-cost, US DOT TIFIA loan and the issuance of Private Activity Bonds. The NYNJ Link Partnership comprises Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc. and Kiewit Development, along with lead contractors Kiewit Infrastructure, Weeks Marine and Massman Construction.

The Bayonne Bridge project marks the first time in agency history that engineers will construct a bridge roadway deck above the existing roadway, while traffic continues to flow on the deck below. Work will start later this year, with deck removal scheduled for late 2015.

At roughly the same time, the widening of the Panama Canal will be completed, thus bringing larger Panamax ships to the Port of New York and New Jersey. Raising the roadway of the 81-year-old Bayonne Bridge’s main deck by 64 feet is seen as critical to maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the region’s ports, which face competition from a number of other cities along the East Coast.

“The Port Authority’s approval of the Goethals and Bayonne Bridge projects is welcome news,” says Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, in a statement. “In particular, the New York Building Congress applauds the Port Authority for moving forward with a public-private partnership in rebuilding the Goethals.” Anderson adds that PPPs such as the one between the Port and the NYNJ Link Partnership represent “the wave of the future, which we hope will be emulated widely in the coming years.”