BAYONNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says work to remove the existing lower roadway of the Bayonne Bridge will be completed six months ahead of schedule.

The Republican governor announced Tuesday that the work should be completed by June 30. It’s part of a $1.6 billion project to allow bigger cargo ships to reach New York City-area ports.

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“The ‘Raise the Roadway’ project is a true game-changer for the port, one of the state’s and this region’s most significant job creators, employing 336,000 people and generating billions of dollars in economic activity,” Christie said in a statement. “With the lifting of the bridge’s navigational restrictions, we expect these numbers to continue to grow and shipping lines to begin to send their larger ships to this port”

The Bayonne Bridge currently has a navigational clearance of 151 feet. The newly raised roadway will provide a clearance of 215 feet — the same as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York. 

“The world’s largest, most efficient and environmentally friendly container vessels will be able to travel beneath it to reach the East Coast’s busiest port terminals in Newark and Elizabeth after passing through the recently widened Panama Canal or the Suez Canal,” Christie said.

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Officials say the larger ships will reduce operating costs for shipping lines.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the busiest port on the East Coast and the third-busiest in the country after Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Christie noted that he battled then-New York Gov. David Paterson to have the Port Authority fund the $1.6 billion project, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)