After a brief ceremony on Friday morning, the Fairway Road extension and bridge officially opened at noon.

The bridge, which will link east Kitchener to north Cambridge, is the first new span over the Grand River in 50 years.

Trevor Subhani was the first driver to cross the bridge. “[It’s] fantastic news for the region,” he said.

Plans have been in the works for the last twenty years.

“This is a long awaited project many years in the making,” said Regional Chair Ken Seiling. “The public will enjoy the benefits of improved connections between Kitchener, Cambridge and Guelph, and the bridge provides greater access to Highway 401, while easing congestion on Highway 8.”

The bridge is flanked by two roundabouts, one at Fairway Road and Zeller Drive in Kitchener and the other at Fountain Street and Kossuth Road in Cambridge.

It has four lanes for traffic, bicycle lanes, mixed-use sidewalks and a connection to the Water Bean Trail.

“This is just wonderful for me to be able to take the back roads [to work]. Nice wide shoulders and a lot safer,” said cyclist Darren Roorda.

The project cost the Region of Waterloo $40.5 million.

Meanwhile another long-awaited project is getting the go-ahead by the Ministry of Transportation.

An 18-kilometre expressway, which would link Guelph and Kitchener, will begin construction in 2015.

An estimated 26,000 vehicles travel between the two cities each day.