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Editorial: Suddenly, a delay? That bridge we don't buy

We can only imagine the person who determines how long Port Authority construction projects will take is the same person who determines overtime hours for its police force.

The bistate agency announced earlier this month that the raising of the Bayonne Bridge — required to accommodate the giant Panamax ships that otherwise can’t access the port — will be delayed by two years because of “numerous challenges.” Apparently all these challenges — including a harsh winter that, granted, felt like it lasted two years — arose very recently, since a report quoting the project manager that appeared on NJ.com in mid-May was optimistic about the project being on schedule.

To be very clear: We fully support this project, which is necessary to ensure the long-term health and viability of the port, which is a key part of the region’s economy. Competing ports do not face the access challenges presented by the Bayonne Bridge, and so are able to compete with the region for valuable shipping business. What continues to frustrate us is the way the process has been managed — years wasted bickering about costs of a project everyone knew to be inevitable, endless arguments over dredging as opposed to raising the bridge and, now, a major delay that pushes estimated completion back to 2019. That’s another two years of the biggest cargo ships being locked out of the channel, further threatening the region’s economy. Not to mention the traffic nightmare motorists in the region are already enduring as a result of the nearby Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation, which is creating an economic impact of its own.

We fully support the Bayonne Bridge project. What frustrates us is the way the process has been managed.

New Jersey and New York pose a major advantage for anyone in shipping, for the simple reason of a huge population readily accessible through a mature highway system. If you’re trying to connect goods with people, it’s hard to beat this area. But that alone isn’t sufficient, as the rise of other East Coast ports like Baltimore proves. The age of its infrastructure presents one challenge to the area that projects like Bayonne and Pulaski can help solve. But the Port Authority has to find a way to deliver on projects like this in keeping with its announced schedule. Given the news that came out in May, it’s hard to understand how it will suddenly take another two years for work to wrap up. The fact that $1.3 billion is being spent on this project demands increased transparency on it. Unfortunately, given the Port Authority’s history, we are unconvinced that will ever be the case.

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