BAYONNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Port Authority is ahead of schedule on the Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project.

The completion of the deck removal portion of the project will be finished six months earlier than expected, officials announced Wednesday.

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“Rather than completing removal of the deck in mid 2016, it will now be completed in the fall of 2015,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.

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

Work is expected to begin in mid-2013.

Supporters said the work is crucial to the ports’ economic future.

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“This project is a critical infrastructure project for both the Port Authority and the region,” Port Authority Chairman David Samson told 1010 WINS. “Completing the project ahead of schedule will ensure that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey remains the region’s primary economic engine.”

“Construction on the raise the roadway project itself is expected to generate more than 6,300 good-paying jobs for the region which will generate, in turn, approximately $380 million in wages and over $1.5 billion in economic activity,” Samson added.

The expedited timeline will ensure the project is completed before the Panama Canal opens. The deck removal will clear the way for larger ships to access port terminals in New York and New Jersey when the Panama Canal is completed and fully operational.

The Bayonne Bridge links Bayonne with Staten Island, N.Y.

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