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RJ Watson’s Role in the Portal North Bridge Transformation 

By February 20, 2024March 6th, 2024No Comments
Portal bridge NJ

R.J. Watson is leading the way in the transformative Portal North Bridge project in New Jersey, which represents a monumental shift from the century-old Portal Bridge to a state-of-the-art infrastructure solution. This initiative is part of the most ambitious project undertaken by NJ TRANSIT to date, aiming to significantly reduce the notorious delays caused by the old bridge’s need to swing open for river traffic, thereby facilitating a more reliable and faster commute between Newark and New York.


Awarded in October 2021, the project is a $1.56 billion design-build effort by the Skanska/Traylor Bros Joint Venture, with design responsibilities handled by Portal Partners, J.V., consisting of Gannett Fleming, HNTB, and Jacobs. The endeavor is not only notable for its size, stretching nearly 2.5 miles including the main and approach spans, but also for its engineering complexity. The new bridge, comprising three 400-foot-long tied arches over the Hackensack River, will improve 2.44 miles to the Northeast Corridor rail line, benefiting both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. 


A significant aspect of this project is the technical innovation and resilience brought forth by R.J. Watson’s bearings. These are crucial for the operational integrity and longevity of the bridge, handling expansive movements and high loads. The bridge’s design includes 656 high-load multi-rotational disc bearings designed to support vertical loads ranging from 300,000 lbs to 6,000,000 and significant horizontal loads. The engineering challenges addressed include managing the movement of the expansion bearings, which is approximately 62.5 inches (one way) for the arches and 1/16 inch for the approach girders over a 50-year service period. 


Furthermore, the main river spans feature bearings will undergo rigorous testing at RJW facilities to ensure they can withstand up to 150% of their designed service load, over 9 million pounds.  This testing is indicative of the project’s commitment to safety and durability, setting a new standard for infrastructure projects in the region. 


The Portal North Bridge project is a testament to the collaborative effort between public entities and private companies, with significant funding from both federal and state sources, including a substantial $766.5 million from the Federal Transit Administration. Slated for completion in November 2027, this project underscores R.J. Watson’s pivotal role in enhancing transportation infrastructure, promising a future of more dependable and efficient travel in the Northeast Corridor.