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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Todd Gloria and City Council President Jennifer Campbell marked the completion of an important phase of the West Mission Bay Drive Bridge Tuesday, opening a portion of the span to vehicle traffic.

On Wednesday, motorists will officially begin to be diverted onto the bridge to allow the existing, aging bridge to be safely demolished. As the existing bridge is demolished, the iron, concrete and other materials will be hauled off to be recycled and reused in other capacities.

“I am thrilled to open this new bridge that will ease traffic congestion in a heavily traveled part of our city and ultimately provide bicyclists and pedestrians a safe and environmentally friendly way to cross the San Diego River,” Gloria said. “This new bridge is going to make life easier for residents in our coastal communities, especially during busy summer months.”

The $135 million project is now roughly halfway complete, with protected bike and pedestrian lanes yet to come, intended to improve the safety and accessibility for all road users on this busy route linking the Loma Portal and Midway District neighborhoods with SeaWorld, Mission Bay Park and popular beach areas.

The old West Mission Bay Drive bridge was built in the early 1950s and features only two travel lanes for northbound and southbound traffic. As traffic volume increased significantly during the past 70 years, the bridge was declared obsolete by the California Department of Transportation and targeted for replacement.

The new version features two standalone bridges — each with three vehicle lanes — and a 12-foot-wide shared path for pedestrians and people riding bicycles, scooters or other modes of transportation.

“It’s an exciting day in District 2,” Campbell said. “The opening of the new West Mission Bay Bridge is a big step in reducing traffic, increasing safety and creating better options for the residents in our beach communities to move around.”

In addition to the infrastructure and mobility upgrades, this project provides for environmental mitigation at key locations along the San Diego River, allowing for growth of native vegetation and habitat for protected species in the area.

Improvements will also be made to widen the westbound Interstate 8 offramp, as well as nearby Sports Arena Boulevard. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

Construction on the project began in July 2018.