Carfloats on New York Harbor: What Goes Around Comes Around

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

The maritime industry has a well-deserved reputation for reinventing itself through cutting-edge technologies that improve efficiencies at the port. In recent years, the industry’s game changers have included computerized gantry cranes and fancy robotics that load and unload cargo from ships.

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Greenville Yards circa 1969

A century ago, the numerous carfloats operating in New York Harbor were considered state of the art. These barges, outfitted with tracks and railroad freight cars, moved cargo to points west and east to warehouses in New York City, and to vessels tied up at the docks. But the benefits of floating freight cars dried up once major railroads went bankrupt, and the use of trucks in shipping began to rise steadily.

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One of three new locomotives purchased by the Port Authority at Greenville Yards.

That is, until the Port Authority decided that by investing in this 100-year-old operation, the old could once again become new. The result is a modernized railroad carfloat operation with a bright future on New York Harbor.

In 2008, the Port Authority purchased New York New Jersey Rail, LLC, (NYNJR) the railroad operating the last remaining carfloat service in New York Harbor. One of the agency’s priorities was lowering port-generated emissions by reducing the Port Region’s heavy reliance on trucking as the primary freight transportation mode over the long term. During the next decade, carfloats have handled an estimated total of 3,500 loaded rail cars and removed more than 12,000 tractor-trailers from the roads.

“The New York New Jersey Rail service is a good, reliable and efficient mode to get our products from origin to destination,” said Andy Goodman, the president of Sherwood Lumber Corporation, which has a facility at the 65th Street Rail Yard in Brooklyn. “It is more cost effective to receive the lumber via NYNJR’s carfloat as opposed to trucking it into Brooklyn.”

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65th Street Rail Yard in Brooklyn

Aside from lumber, NYNJR has moved large steel beams used to build the Housatonic River Bridge in Connecticut and boilers and generators for Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn and New York University in Manhattan, among other cargo. More typical cargo includes food products such as rice and onions and beer, as well as scrap metal and recyclables.

“The railroad has developed a great synergy. They move loaded beer cars to the east on one carfloat for consumption. The shredded glass from the beer bottles comes west on the return trip, which is then recycled into new beer bottles,” said Jeffrey Brauner, the principal transportation planner for the Port Authority’s Port Rail Program.

During operations, dock workers connect the barge to a transfer bridge that acts as a link between the barge and the rail yard. A locomotive shoves freight cars onto tracks located on the barge and workers distribute the weight as evenly as possible.  The crew then unhinges the barge and, with the help of a tug boat, it moves slowly on the four-mile trip across the harbor that takes 40 minutes.  One carfloat can transport 14 freight cars, the equivalent of 56 trucks, between Greenville Yard in Jersey City and the 65th Street Rail Yard.

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To dock the carfloat, workers manually connect pins to the carfloat to establish a seamless connection between the arfloat and the bridge.

In 2014, the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners authorized up to $133 million to fund the rehabilitation of NYNJR’s infrastructure, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The modernization projects include new environmentally friendly locomotives, higher-capacity carfloats, a new transfer bridge and support yard. These improvements are scheduled for completion in in 2020. In 2016, the railroad delivered more than 300 rail cars to the Sherwood Lumber Corporation warehouse.

“We plan to continue using NYNJR for many years to come,” said Goodman.

Posted in commerical shipping, Greenville Yards, New York Harbor, New York New Jersey Rail, NYNJR, PANYNJ, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Jackie Robinson Tribute at Journal Square: And Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett

It’s safe to assume that most commuters passing through the Journal Square PATH Station never realize the larger-than-life statue of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson outside the station is there because Robinson made his professional debut against the Jersey City Giants in 1946, the first African-American ballplayer to play in a AAA minor league game.  During that game, he crushed a home run over the wall of what was then Roosevelt Stadium, a short distance from where PATH Plaza is located today.

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The statue, created by sculptor Susan Wagner, was dedicated on February 26, 1998 by the Jackie Robinson Foundation, in partnership with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the city of Jersey City, the New Jersey Sports History Commission, and many others. Hugh McCann, the current Director of World Trade Center Operations, was Deputy Director of PATH that year.  He still recalls the power of the ceremony and how incredible it was to meet Jackie’s wife Rachel and other members of his family.

“Whenever I’m at Journal Square and see the statue, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible American history enshrined there,” said McCann, who grew up a block away from Yankee Stadium.

The Port Authority provided the land and the pedestal to support the statue. Lew Eisenberg, former chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners and a former Goldman Sachs executive, was one of the biggest proponents of the tribute, with his family’s foundation contributing funds for its construction.  The statue continues to be a reminder of the groundbreaking changes Robinson brought about in America with his glove and his bat.

The statue features Robinson with his catching hand gloved and both arms outstretched. It is 14 feet tall, and consists of quarter inch thick bronze, 1,500 lbs. of bronze reinforced with 1,000 lbs. of stainless steel armature and mounting plate.  The inscription at its foot quotes the player himself:  A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

When Robinson took the field for the first time for the Montreal Royals against the Jersey City Giants, he was booed, heckled and called bad names; some fans threw objects at him from the stands. That day, he had four hits, including a three-run homer, with four RBIs, four runs scored and two stolen bases.  A year later, he broke the color line in Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

“Few people realize that day in Jersey City was the beginning of the integration of sports, and one of the first major steps in the American civil rights movement, clearing the way for an army of players like me, of every nationality and ethnicity,” said Fred Valentine, who is familiar with Robinson’s statue and his connection to Jersey City.

Valentine, currently the Vice President of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, (Brooks Robinson is President), was among the wave of black ballplayers accepted in the majors after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Valentine played in the major leagues for seven years and has been associated with professional baseball for nearly a half-century.

“It was Jackie who opened it up and led the way for all of us,” Valentine told Portfolio recently, “Most teams hadn’t fully accepted integration yet, so basically I went through the same things that Jackie went through. He was in the National League and I was in the American League. I played in the minor leagues in the segregated south, and it was definitely tough at first.  Every day I used to think about what Jackie had gone through before me and what he endured, not only in baseball but in life.”

 

Posted in Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson Foundation, PANYNJ, PATH Trains, Port Authority Trans-Hudson, Winter Storm Jonas, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Goethals Bridge “Rock Star” a Top 25 Newsmaker

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

After more than a decade leading the Goethals Bridge Replacement Program, Jim Blackmore is getting some well-deserved recognition.

Blackmore, the director of the Port Authority’s project to build a new Goethals Bridge and demolish its 88-year-old predecessor, was recently named by Engineering News Record (ENR), the premier industry publication, as one of its Top 25 Newsmakers of 2016. He joins an impressive nationwide group of architects, scientists and others who, in the magazine’s words, “have gone above and beyond to serve the interests of the construction industry and the public.”

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Jim Blackmore, Director of the Goethals Bridge Replacement Program, is one of ENR’s “Top 25 Newsmakers of 2016.”  PHOTO by Conrad Barclay, Port Authority

ENR commends Blackmore for his use of “engineering and business smarts” to help create and guide the innovative public-private partnership (PPP, or P3 in industry parlance) that governs the Goethals project, and for directing all aspects of the project including the private developer’s construction work.

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Aerial view of the Goethals Bridge construction site.  The two halves of the new eastbound span are nearly touching over the Arthur Kill.  The original bridge will eventually be demolished.  PHOTO courtesy of PDK Commercial Photographer LTD.

“While this is a great honor, I have to say the success of the Goethals Bridge replacement has relied and continues to rely on many more people at the Port Authority and beyond,” Blackmore said.  He cited numerous staff and leaders at the Port Authority, project consultants HTNB and AECOM, and the P3’s private developer, NYNJ Link LLC.

The Goethals P3 is especially noteworthy as the region’s first for a bridge construction project — and for ensuring the cost-effective delivery of the Port Authority’s first new bridge since 1931, and what may be the region’s first cable-stayed bridge.

The first of the bridge’s twin spans is nearing completion and is expected to open to traffic during the coming months.  Later, when both spans are finalized, drivers will enjoy a 21st century roadway with a total of six 12-foot lanes along with 12-foot outer shoulders, five-foot inner shoulders and a 10-foot shared-use path for bicycles and pedestrians.  That’s a significant improvement over the existing functionally obsolete bridge, which has four 10-foot lanes and no shoulders.

“Jim Blackmore is a PPP rock star,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said recently. “In his role as program director for the Goethals Bridge Replacement, he has led this project since inception. Today, construction is proceeding impressively under his dogged oversight.”

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Stay cables provide the muscle for the new Goethals Bridge.  PHOTO by Mike Dombromski, Port Authority

Back in the project’s early days, Blackmore led the project through a comprehensive, federally mandated environmental review. Then, when the P3 model was still a novelty at the Port Authority, Blackmore worked with Gerry Stoughton, the Port Authority’s now-retired Director of Financial analysis, and Brian Smith of the agency’s Law Department to advocate for its use to limit the public’s financial exposure, while ensuring the construction of a high-quality new bridge on a strict timetable.

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Half the new eastbound span stretches out from Elizabeth, NJ across the Arthur Kill.  PHOTO by Mike Dombrowski, Port Authority

That’s because the Goethals P3 requires the private developer to have what Blackmore calls “skin in the game,” and a very clear set of incentives.  The developer provided up-front financing for the project. Payments from the Port Authority will not begin until the bridge is delivered, according to the contract’s strict requirements, and will be made over a 35-year period. The developer also will be responsible for the bridge’s maintenance during the first 35 years.

After years of this type of preliminary work, the actual construction of the new bridge has made swift progress during the past two years.

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Installation of the stay cables on the new eastbound span is progressing rapidly.  PHOTO by Mike Dombrowski, Port Authority

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Another view of the stay cables supporting the roadway.  PHOTO by Mike Dombrowski, Port Authority

Blackmore’s unique background, merging the fields of engineering/construction with finance, guided both the preliminary and construction aspects of the project.

Before joining the Port Authority, he worked with Bechtel Power Corp. and Bechtel International Group, serving in management roles for the construction of New Jersey’s Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant and for building part of the infrastructure of Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia. He then earned an MBA at Columbia University, and worked in the real estate investment banking world before joining the Port Authority’s office of the Chief Financial Officer in 1995.

Luke Chenery, the CEO of NYNJ Link, said Blackmore helps keep the Goethals project moving forward by “insisting on a cooperative approach, reminding us all that we share the same project goals even during times of heated debates and disputes.”

Blackmore says he strives to resolve those inevitable conflicts by reminding everyone of the bigger picture. “Whatever we’re debating – whether it’s between Port Authority staff or with the developer or contractor – is always resolvable,” he said.

“I try to remind myself and everyone else to step back,” he said. “Look out the window at that tremendous bridge we’re building, and how far we’ve come. Compared with that, this small problem in front of us is like a gnat on an elephant. Let’s resolve it and get back to the bigger work.

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Blackmore at the new Goethals Bridge construction site.  The new bridge’s  twin pairs of Staten Island towers rise in the background.  The original cantilever bridge is visible on the left.  PHOTO by Conrad Barclay, Port Authority

 

 

Posted in Goethals Bridge, Goethals Replacement Bridge, PANYNJ, Pat Foye, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, public private partnership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,