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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's (PANYNJ) board last week authorized more than $300 million toward construction of a new Portal North Bridge, a key component of the "Gateway" program to build a new trans-Hudson rail network.The authority will fund debt service on the $284 million long-term federal loan that will be made to the Gateway Program Development Corp. (GDPC) and $18 million in loan expenses to help pay for the bridge, according to a PANYNJ press release.The Portal North Bridge project is a critical rail infrastructure component for trains traveling into and out of New York City. The 106-year-old structure spans the Hackensack River, and handles 450 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains each day. The bridge project is fully permitted with construction slated to begin in 2018. It is an early part of the overall program of adding a second rail tunnel between New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan.Earlier this year, the authority approved $35 million — in addition to $35 million from Amtrak — in funding for preliminary engineering work for the Hudson Tunnel Project. The agreement approved last week will cover the principal, interest and related costs of low-interest federal loans obtained by the development corporation for a portion of the local share of the estimated $1.5 billion cost of replacing the existing Portal Bridge.The authority's payments to the development corporation will be spread over 35 to 40 years to support the repayment of up to $284 million in loans from the federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program and/or the Transportation Infrastructure Financing Act (TIFIA) Program.The GPDC, which is in the process of being incorporated, will be responsible for advancing the Portal North Bridge, along with the Hudson Tunnel Project to create a second rail tunnel between Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey. "The Gateway Program is critical to meeting future trans-Hudson travel needs and supporting the economic vitality of the region and today's action moves this vital effort forward," said PANYNJ Chairman John Degnan. "This enhanced regional rail network will modernize our transportation system and benefit hundreds of thousands of train passengers every day."