Aging Route 3 bridge will be replaced thanks to infrastructure bill

The eastbound span is one of 500 in New Jersey in need of repair

By: - January 26, 2022 7:04 am

Gov. Phil Murphy announcing plans for the eastbound Route 3 bridge over the Hackensack River to be replaced as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Jan. 25, 2022. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)

The Route 3 bridge that crosses the Hackensack River is one of the busiest in the nation, with over 150,000 commuters using it to get from New Jersey to New York City daily.

It’s also in the worst condition of any bridge in the state, officials said Tuesday morning as cars and trucks whizzed across the aging span.

“When you read the public comment on this bridge, you hesitate to drive over it,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.

It’s been nearly 90 years since the bridge was built, and its replacement will be among the first New Jersey projects funded by the $1.2 trillion bipartisan federal infrastructure package President Joe Biden signed in November. Pascrell and others hailed the $143 million plan as one that will make driving that stretch of Route 3 easier for commuters and tourists.

Plans for the replacement bridge will include a light rail system to alleviate traffic from MetLife Stadium and the American Dream Mall, with an aim to make the nearby Secaucus Junction train station a popular hub, officials said. Eventually, they hope to connect this light rail system to the existing Hudson-Bergen line.

“We have a vision that says you can come from Boston or Washington, take a nice train ride, get off in Secaucus, and hop on a monorail-type system that may allow you to travel all the way through,” said Transportation Department Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. 

Pilings show signs of wear to the bridge, which was built during the Eisenhower administration. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)

Overall, the state is expected to receive $1.1 billion over the next five years to address bridges in need of repairs and upgrades, with $229 million slated for this year. 

“This is a big deal for America, and New Jersey,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, who was joined by Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Pascrell, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Raymond Pocino of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and Gutierrez-Scaccetti. 

More than 500 bridges — or 7.4% of the 6,801 bridges in the state — are classified as “structurally deficient,” according to  Steve Schapiro, spokesman for the state Transportation Department. That doesn’t mean a bridge is unsafe, but that it’s in need of repair or rehabilitation, he said.

Menendez noted more than 45,000 bridges nationwide are deemed to be in poor condition.

Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the Route 3 bridge needs to replaced “sooner rather than later.” It’s in “the worst condition of any bridge in the state,” she said.

It will take about two years to design the new bridge before any shovels break ground on the replacement project, she said, adding that a highlight of the federal law is it allows dollars to be put aside for projects planned for the near future.

In the last few years, some emergency work has been done on the bridge, which was first constructed in the 1930s, but repeated construction causes congestion on Route 3, a major artery into New York City.

The new bridge will be built north of the existing structure to minimize disrupting traffic. It will also be raised to accommodate marine traffic.

Booker said investing in improving bridges will bring the state’s transportation system into the 21st Century and create jobs to boost the economy. The Route 3 project will support an additional 1,859 jobs, according to Pocino.

Menendez touted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as the “largest investment in America’s infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system.

“That was 1956 — 66 years ago,” he said. “Boy, do we need it.” 

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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