After 50 years of discussion and planning, the Bedford Bypass is finally finished.
The ribbon was cut as the last stretch of the road, dubbed The Great Ouse Way, was officially opened to link the A4280 at Biddenham with the A6 at Clapham.
A classic Routemaster bus lead a convoy of classic cars, the first to drive on the fresh Tarmac. They were joined by cyclists pedalling along the new cycle and pedestrian path which runs along the length of the road.
Declaring the northern section of the highway open, Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson said it “has been completed on time and in budget” which is “fantastic news for all local road users”.
He added: “It’s also a great boost for the local economy, making Bedford Borough an even more attractive place to invest in and create jobs and growth.
It is hoped the £18.6 million scheme will ease congestion and improve journey times in and around Bedford as it is expected to carry up to 20,000 vehicles a day, some of which will come from the 1,200 new homes to be constructed nearby and a new employment park providing 650 new jobs.
Mayor Hodgson said: “Quite simply, a complete Western Bypass will help all road users to get into and around Bedford. That’s why it’s been in plans and strategies for over half a century, and we’re delighted to have overcome the obstacles in the way and made this final section a reality.”
The first phase of the Western Bypass between the A421 and the A428 was completed in 2009.
Construction of the final phase began in autumn 2014 after Bedford Borough Council secured external funding, including £4.5million from the Department for Transport, and reached agreement with the principal landowners and a wide range of interested parties after successfully pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order.
It was built by contractor Breheny Civil Engineering, which kept conservation by adding new planting and pond areas for wildlife and barriers to prevent badgers wandering onto the road.