N.Y.-N.J. Maritime Interests Urge Removal Of Newark Bay Bridge

Maritime elements in the Port of New York and New Jersey have called upon bistate harbor Congressional leaders to support the ship industry's efforts to remove the Newark Bay Drawbridge as a vessel navigation hazard.

Terming the little-used railroad bridge "a catastrophe waiting to happen," Adm. John M. Will, USN (ret.), told a breakfast meeting with area Senators and Representatives in Washington, D.C., that quick action is needed to avert a certain tragedy in the future. Speaking on behalf of a broad-based committee of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and tanker and dry cargo ship operators using the Newark Bay harbor area, Admiral Will told the legislators that the bridge was declared a hazard by the Coast Guard, but that action has stalled on removing it.

"In 1972, as a result of a study urged by the Port's maritime industry, the Third Coast Guard District found that the bridge, as it stands, is an unreasonable obstruction to navigation and that there is a need and justification for its replacement or removal," he said. "The bridge stands unaltered today, four and a half years later, with plans for any changes apparently on dead center." The bridge, which has been a target for removal by the Port's ocean industry for decades, straddles the ship channel used by tankers, containerships, and other types of vessels. Nearly 50,000 ship passages are recorded through the bridge annually. The problem, noted Admiral Will, is that passage by an ocean vessel is very much like threading a needle. "It requires skill, nerve, good weather and, perhaps most important, a lot of luck. In real bad weather, its passage is almost impossible." The maritime interests contend the bridge can be removed with little impact on railroad operations, since only a few passenger trains now use the facility, and plans are being readied to provide alternate bus service for these riders. He told the Congressional delegation that three steps should be taken to expedite the removal plan, namely: The Coast Guard should issue orders to remove the bridge under federal law.

The State of New Jersey should terminate the present rail shuttle service and provide alternate transportation.

The Coast Guard should obtain federal appropriation to proceed with removal of the bridge spans and center island, to be followed by a later appropriation to remove the remainder of the bridge.

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