Port Authority officials say the Bayonne Bridge "Raise the Roadway" project will be completed six months earlier than expected.

The $1 billion project calls for raising the 80-year-old span's roadway by 64 feet -- to 215 feet -- to provide larger container ships with access to piers in New Jersey and New York.

Port Authority Chairman David Samson said Wednesday that completing the deck removal portion of the project six months ahead of schedule will put the agency on-track to finish before the opening of the newly widened Panama Canal in 2015.

Supporters say the Bayonne Bridge project is crucial to the regional economy. It will allow the ports to accommodate the larger, so-called post-Panamax cargo ships that will traverse the Panama Canal after its expansion.

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