Portal North Bridge Is Out of Money Already!
Stop the presses, NJ Transit Board members, please wake up! The $1.56 billion Portal North Bridge construction contract you approved unanimously at a special meeting last Oct. 12 is a whopping $340 million (28%) over the $1.22 billion contract cost in the PNB Project capital budget! The entire Project Capital Cost is now higher than any amount anticipated by either NJT or the Federal Transit Administration, $32 million over the $1.96 billion identified as the worst case imaginable for which 20% cost overrun funds were identified. In effect, the PNB Project capital budget is out of money before the first spade is turned.
The $1.80 billion FTA-defined PNB “Total Project Cost” NJT submitted to the FTA in September 2020 increased to $1.90 billion (never shared by NJT) with the signing of the Full Funding Grant Agreement contract by FTA and NJT officials last January and has now blown up to an amazing $2.20 billion, without a peep from NJT! The increased cost will require $1.1 billion in New Jersey-controlled funds—not a single dollar from New York!—for this replacement of the Amtrak-owned Portal Bridge.
Board members: were you made aware of this dire financial situation before the Board meeting? If you were made aware, why did no one at the special Board meeting bother to mention the budget-busting overrun, explain how it would be paid for, and list the projects from which the overrun money would come from? If you were not made aware, what are you going to do about this failure of NJT staff to inform you of critically important facts that would likely have changed your approval vote? When will the FTA be informed? Isn’t it time for you, the Board, to stop this over-scoped, incredibly expensive project and investigate more cost-effective alternative designs?
None of this critically important information was provided to the public by NJT before or after the special Board meeting—not even a hint!—and has had to be rooted out of other documents. Regrettably, these facts were not identified until recently, weeks after Board approval of the contract.