New Jersey legislators last week passed a resolution that urges the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to develop funding and engineering solutions to increase the Bayonne Bridge’s air clearance and accommodate larger vessels.

The bridge, which connects Staten Island to Bayonne, N.J., has a channel clearance of 151 feet. Officials anticipate that once the Panama Canal finishes its expansion project in 2014, larger ships will be accessing the East Coast to deliver cargo. New Jersey and the Port Authority would like to capture that shipping business.

Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said the bi-state agency anticipates releasing a study of the bridge project by the end of the year to determine the best options. A 2008 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report pegged the cost of rehabilitating or replacing the span at $1.3 billion to $3.1 billion. Coleman said it was premature to identify possible funding solutions, including a potential borrowing.

The authority earlier this month announced a unique financing plan to replace another span that connects Staten Island with New Jersey, the Goethals Bridge. The proposal involves a private company raising capital for the new bridge. It would then loan the money to the Port Authority, with the agency repaying the private firm with interest over time.

The Port Authority, which has $12.28 billion of outstanding debt and an estimated $24.5 billion of bonding capacity, is looking to keep borrowing in line as additional debt could place its current credit ratings at risk.

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