The wait is over - traffic began flowing in both directions over the new two-lane Kopu Bridge this morning.
NZ Transport Agency Project Services Manager Bryce Carter said the first vehicles travelled over the new bridge at about 6:20 a.m. this morning.
"It's a great sight after all of the hard work that has gone into delivering this project ahead of schedule and under budget. Traffic is moving smoothly in both directions, and we're really pleased that holiday makers and local motorists will enjoy safer and smoother journeys to and from the Coromandel."
Construction of the Kopu Bridge was brought forward by 18 months through the Government's Jobs and Growth package, and the NZTA together with their engineers and contractors have worked hard to open the bridge even earlier - with the opening date brought forward from Mid 2012 to December 2011.
Mr Carter said it was important that motorists travelling from Thames on SH25 were aware of the new approach road layout. Motorists will not turn right at the old intersection near the Kopu Tavern, instead they continue on and turn right at the new roundabout at the SH25/26 intersection.
Mr Carter also said that while the bridge is now open, work was continuing on other parts of the project.
"Now that the bridge is open, construction of the works allowing the new slip lane, which will provide left in only access from SH25 to the Kopu village, can begin. The logistics of the project mean that construction of the tie in between the slip road and the old highway could not begin until the new bridge was opened, and traffic is diverted off the old highway.
"Work will commence on the slip lane tie in today, and the contractor will work longer hours to ensure the slip lane is completed and open as soon as possible."
The old Kopu bridge will continue to be used by contractors for construction traffic to avoid damaging to the seal on the new bridge. Once construction is completed an agreement between NZTA and local Councils will see the swing span opened and access to the bridge closed off while various options are considered for the future of the bridge.