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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will finish a key part of a $1 billion project to raise the Bayonne Bridge by the fourth quarter of 2015, six months earlier than planned, officials said.
The new timetable will ensure that the project will be completed before a widened Panama Canal opens in 2016, allowing bigger container ships to reach New York City-area ports from the Pacific Ocean. The project will create an estimated 6,300 construction jobs, the agency said. Work will start in mid-2013.
“We said we’d be ready for the opening of the Panama Canal and we will be ready,” Port Authority Chairman David Samson said today on a conference call with reporters. “Competition is fierce among all the ports on the East Coast.”
The 80-year-old Bayonne Bridge, which connects the New Jersey city with New York’s Staten Island, is the fourth-largest steel arch bridge in the world. The Port Authority is raising the span’s roadway to 215 feet (66 meters) from 151 feet above the Kill Van Kull waterway to accommodate larger, more efficient vessels.
The agency, which also operates the region’s three major airports, said its seven shipping terminals handled 3.2 million containers in 2011. The ports support about 280,000 jobs and $11 billion in personal income, Samson said. The terminals handled 30 percent of all goods shipped to the East Coast, more than its three closest competitors combined -- Savannah, Georgia; Norfolk, Virginia; and Baltimore, the Port Authority said.
Other ports on the Eastern Seaboard are investing in infrastructure to boost competitiveness, the Port Authority said. The Port of Miami is building a $450 million tunnel connecting it to interstate highways. South Carolina is spending $300 million to deepen the Port of Charleston.
The Panama Canal Authority is expected to complete the widening of the waterway in April 2015. Eight months of testing will follow construction, Samson said.
Port Authority officials attributed the expedited timeline in part to accelerated design and compressed permitting processes. The agency has prequalified five construction joint ventures to bid on the work. Agency officials and the four U.S. senators representing New York and New Jersey have asked for expedited federal reviews.
“There is no project more important to the Port Authority than this,” Samson said.
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