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Raising of Bayonne Bridge to be completed 6 months ahead of schedule

OFFICIALS at the Port of New York and New Jersey have announced that the long-awaited opening of the renovated Bayonne Bridge, which has been elevated so that ships of up to 18,000 TEU can pass underneath, will take place on June 30 - six months ahead of schedule.

The completion of the US$1.6 billion elevation project will enable big ships at the nation's third-largest port to reach three of its four main terminals - Maher Terminals and APM Terminals in Elizabeth and Port Newark Container Terminal in Newark - for the first time.

Ships bigger than 9,500 TEU can at present only reach the GCT Bayonne terminal because to get to the other three terminals the ships need to pass below the bridge, which at 151 feet high is too low to permit passage by large ships. The new height is 215 feet.

The bridge project has been closely watched by ports and their users along the East Coast as many observers believe that its elevation will boost the flow of large ships to the port, and those vessels will stop elsewhere along the coast.

The opening of the bridge also is expected to increase the flow of big ships through the Panama Canal, possibly adding to the slow shift of container market share away from West Coast ports to those on the East Coast.

"Baltimore, Norfolk Savannah, Charleston - they are as eager to see this done, if not more eager, than we are," said assistant director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's port division, Beth Rooney. "Because those large ships will not call [at] the North Atlantic [ports] until this is completed."

She said the first big vessel under the bridge would likely not take place June 30, but the authority is in discussion with carriers, which are planning the arrival of large vessels now that an opening date is set, she said.

Authorities had previously said the renovated bridge would open by the end of 2017. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that the opening date had been moved forward at a press conference at Maher Terminals that was attended by port and terminal officials as well as members of the International Longshoremen's Association, including president Harold Daggett.

"This is truly an engineering marvel," said Mr Christie, noting that authorities in large part maintained the flow of road traffic over the bridge as the heightening project was underway. "Engineers have compared it to performing open heart surgery while the patient runs a marathon at the same time," he said.

The authority kept the span of the old bridge and built a new roadway above it. Once that was largely built, workers began removing the old roadway. About half of the old roadway remains and will be removed by June 30, and work is expected to continue on the new roadway, expanding it from two lanes to four, until 2019, authority officials said, according to IHS Media.
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