It's not often in New Jersey when road and bridge construction runs ahead of schedule, especially in time for the summer traffic jam at the shore.

Ocean County officials announced Thursday that construction of the East Bay Avenue Bridge in Barnegat Township will open to the public today, nine months ahead of schedule.

"The new span will make for improved and safer travel for our residents and visitors," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, in a statement issued Thursday.

The $3.7 million dollar project, which started in September, replaced the 154 foot long timber bridge with a three-span, 135 foot long galvanized steel plate girder bridge.

The contractor, Marlboro Inc., was able to complete the project ahead of the July Fourth holiday after township officials decided to close the bridge completely off to traffic. The original plan called to have at least one lane of traffic available on the bridge during construction.

Kelly said minor work still needs to be completed on the project that was partially funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.