Port Authority rushes a bridge-lift in a superboat race against the Panama Canal

The Bayonne Bridge. (wallyg via Flickr)
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"We will ensure that the first ships through the Panama Canal will call at the Port of New York and New Jersey," promised David Samson on Wednesday, in a conference call with reporters.

The Panama Canal is expanding so that bigger ships can pass through it.

And like the port of Miami, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is racing to make sure its facilities can accommodate those larger vessels.

"The ports are very concerned about poaching," explained Rich Barone, the head of transportation programs for the Regional Plan Association.

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Today, Samson and the authority's executive director, Pat Foye, announced that they are moving forward the planned raising of the Bayonne Bridge by six months to make room for the new ships. The bridge's roadway will now be moved from 151 feet above the water to 215 feet by fall of 2015. Its original completion date was 2016.

While the authority is speeding up the project, it is also benefiting from delays in the expansion of the canal down south.

The Panama Canal project was supposed to be done in 2014, but that date has since been pushed back to spring of the following year, at which point it will need to undergo at least six months of testing.

So the Bayonne Bridge raising should slide in under the wire.

It's not quite clear how it is that the Port Authority managed to expedite the project's completion by six months.

"We've established this project as having the highest priority of all the projects on the drawing board by the Port Authority," said Samson, which as the Record's Shawn Boburg noted, would seem to imply that the World Trade Center reconstruction, also under the Port's aegis, isn't.

Foye pointed to an expedited design process, and teamwork, among other things.

("It takes teamwork to make the dream work," he said).

The authority anticipates getting all regulatory approvals by the end of the year, selecting a contractor next April, and starting construction next summer.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the nation's third largest and the east coast's biggest.

"The Bayonne Bridge and the Ports on boths sides of the Hudson are critical employers, nearly 280,000 jobs in New York and New Jersey, and literally tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of salary and payroll," said Foye.

Here's a (pretty great) video the Port put together explaining the bridge project: