Can an Aerial Gondola to Bayonne Solve Staten Island Commuters’ Woes?

bayonne-staten-island-gondolavia Jersey Digs – Transportation between Manhattan, New Jersey, and Staten Island are one of the highest frustrations for commuters and residents alike. However, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation’s latest project development may have the solution. The corporation is headlining a radical new idea to ease commuting between Staten Island and Manhattan through Bayonne: an aerial gondola that drops people off at a light rail station.

The aerial gondola design came from Leitner-Poma of America (LPOA), with the goal of creating a design to better connect commuters to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in New Jersey. According to the SIEDC, the success of the aerial gondola could create a shorter commute for daily users between Staten Island and Manhattan – down to 33 minutes, in fact.

Initially, the SIEDC initiated a competition to find the best fit to carry out the design rendering and the proposed route for the best route to get commuters to and from Manhattan. The competition’s jury – comprised of architects, engineers, planners, and media – determined Elm Park to Bayonne would be the most efficient route from the three route submissions they received. “System length, total cost [of development], and travel time” were key factors in the final route decision for the jury, according to the SIEDC vice president of membership and outreach Alexandra Porto.

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Watch A Time-Lapse Video of the New Bayonne Bridge Roadway


Two of the world’s most visually arresting pieces of construction equipment – looking more like colossal candy-colored robots than mundane cranes – are toiling away on either side of the Kill van Kull, building new roadways that will serve the elevated Bayonne Bridge.


Known as segment-launching gantries, or gantry cranes, these mechanical giants haul and install the 70-ton concrete segments that make up the roadways. As big as they are – 500 feet long and 1 million pounds each – they work with finesse and precision, moving the roadway segments into just the right place for human workers to bind them with steel, epoxy and more concrete.

Custom-made for the Port Authority’s ambitious Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project, the gantry cranes often operate at night when the bridge is closed to traffic. With their crayon-bold colors lit up in the dark, they seem to have arrived from another world – a Marvel Comics universe, perhaps, or a child’s oversized toy bin.

The project marks the first time engineers are building a bridge roadway above the original span, even as the lower road continues to carry traffic. It will maintain the steel arch that makes the Bayonne Bridge a civil engineering landmark, while giving drivers a safer, wider and more modern roadway with 12-foot lanes, new shoulders, a median divider, and a 12-foot bike and pedestrian walkway. See for yourself in the slideshow below and the time-lapse video of gantry cranes at work by the Port Authority’s Mike Dombrowki.

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First Span of Bayonne Bridge Roadway Completed

The rolling gantry crane on top of the completed first span of the new roadway for the Bayonne Bridge. Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal

The rolling gantry crane on top of the completed first span of the new roadway for the Bayonne Bridge.
Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal

The Bayonne Bridge, a historic civil engineering landmark designed by Othmar H. Ammann, is the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It connects Bayonne, New Jersey, with Staten Island, New York, spanning the Kill Van Kull. Construction began in September 1928 and was completed in 1931. The primary purpose of the bridge was to allow vehicular traffic from Staten Island to reach Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.

Today, because the bridge is only 151 feet above the water, larger container ships often cannot cross under it to reach our marine terminals – Port Newark, Elizabeth and Howland Hook in Staten Island. Shippers who rely on our ports for access to a regional transportation network are forced to use other smaller, less-efficient and less environmentally friendly ships to bring goods into our region.

The new conceptual design highlights safety and design improvements: wider lanes, shoulders, a median divider, and the potential for future transit options. We have completed final engineering design and project staging to confirm how the mainspan and approach will physically be raised while maintaining traffic and access in both directions. Click here to watch a video of our proposed design and construction staging.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to result in a shift to larger, cleaner, more-efficient ships servicing our region and other East Coast markets. In order to ensure these new ships can reach our ports, the clearance limitation must be addressed.

To that end, in December 2010, the Port Authority announced its decision to take action to “Raise the Roadway” of the Bayonne Bridge to 215 feet. The 64 feet of additional air draft under the bridge will allow the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to welcome larger, more efficient vessels to our ports, which will in turn result in cleaner air in our region.