The executive director of the agency that is building New York City's tallest skyscraper could hardly contain himself.

On a recent tour of Ground Zero, Chris Ward, the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, talked excitedly about progress on One World Trade Center, known to many as the Freedom Tower.

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The smallest facets of the skyscraper's construction seemed to fascinate him most.

"One guy was cutting a small electrical box [for a light switch] when I was here a few weeks ago," said Ward, who visits the site twice a month. "The construction workers are building all these little pieces for everything to be in sequence."

Despite years of delays, Ward said his agency is in line to keep the new target dates for completing the various projects at Ground Zero, including One World Trade Center. The building, with a projected cost of at least $3.1 billion, is slated for completion in late 2013.

"The fact people say it's going slow, that there's been no progress, may have been the case a year ago," he said, shouting over the rumbling of heavy construction equipment. "But now this process is moving forward."

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One World Trade is considered a symbol of the country's triumph over terrorism.

A year ago, the structure, with its seven-story foundation, had risen 25 feet above street level. By now, more than 2,300 tons of steel have been used. Installation of 24 columns - each weighing 70 tons and 60 feet tall - began last month, allowing construction of the first three floors. Every 12 inches of just one column equals the weight of a Honda Civic.

Eventually, One World Trade Center will have 102 floors.

In Ward's mind's eye the 1,776-foot tower already is part of lower Manhattan's skyline.

"I'm always amazed when I come here," he said.

>>See photos of Ground Zero today

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