BAYONNE, N.J. (AP) — The new elevated section of the Bayonne Bridge is open to traffic after years of work to raise the deck.
Officials say a new section of the bridge connecting Bayonne, New Jersey, to New York City's Staten Island borough opened for vehicles at 5 a.m. Monday.
Construction on the $1.3 billion project to allow bigger cargo ships to reach New York City-area ports began in 2013. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says the roadway was raised to 215 feet above the Kill van Kull, 64 feet above the original deck.
The previous height limited the size of vessels that could pass underneath on the way to the ports of Newark and Elizabeth. Ships' masts passed mere feet below the span.
The bridge has a cashless toll system, using a combination of E-ZPass and mailed tolls.
Francis Cardamone, the first driver to cross the new section of the bridge, told WNBC-TV in New York that he arrived about 90 minutes before it opened. The Staten Island man received a plaque from the Port Authority.
"I wanted to see what the engineers had done to remodel it and what the men and women who have worked so hard to accomplish in rebuilding it have done," he said. "I really felt I wanted to show my appreciation and gratitude for that by being here to make it a special event."
A separate project completed late last year deepened navigation channels in New York harbor, at a cost of $2.1 billion, in anticipation of the larger ships.
The Port Authority initially hoped to accommodate larger ships in 2016, but officials revised that estimate in 2015, citing construction delays related to weather and structural problems with the bridge's steel.
The larger ships are expected to be able to pass under later this year.
The new roadway has wider lanes and a median. It's the first Port Authority bridge to use cashless tolls.