NEW YORK (AP) -- The three major bridges connecting New Jersey and Staten Island will get facelifts of varying degrees totaling nearly $3 billion over the next several years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced Wednesday in what officials called a historic development for the recently embattled agency.
The Port Authority approved contracts for work on the Bayonne and Goethals bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing, all to begin this year. The biggest piece will be the replacement of the 85-year-old Goethals Bridge at a cost of $1.5 billion that will be funded by a public-private partnership.
The Port Authority will spend $1.3 billion to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet in order to accommodate larger cargo ships anticipated to begin using the expanded Panama Canal by the end of 2015.
Both spans will have their traffic lanes widened, and the Goethals Bridge will add two lanes to its current four.
"This is a historic, perhaps transformational day for the Port Authority," board chairman David Samson said Wednesday. "This is an example of the new way the Port Authority is doing business."
According to Port Authority officials, the public-private partnership to rebuild the Goethals Bridge is the first of its kind for a ground transportation project in the northeastern U.S. The Port Authority will be responsible for $363 million up front and will make an annual payment starting at $60 million to partners Macquarie Infrastructure and Kiewit Development starting once the project is 70 percent completed, Port Authority executive director Pat Foye said. The Port will continue to operate the bridge and reap toll revenues.
The current Goethals Bridge will remain in operation while the new bridge is built.
The Port Authority also approved $743 million for a joint venture comprising Skanska Koch Inc. and Kiewit Infrastructure Co. to work on the $1.3 billion Bayonne Bridge project. The project is awaiting completion of environmental studies.
The Outerbridge Crossing's road bed and approach roads will be resurfaced at a cost of $15.3 million. Crisdel Group was awarded the contract by the Port Authority board Wednesday.
The Port Authority has been under scrutiny since early last year when an independent auditor called the agency "dysfunctional" and criticized it for lax oversight. A subsequent report by the same auditor credited the agency for making improvements.