By CRAIG McTEAR
BUILD it and they will come!
And come they did, in their thousands, to be part of Saturday's highly anticipated opening of the Hogbin Drive extension.
The mood was one of jubilation, celebration and appreciation as the long-awaited missing link was finally completed.
Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades, who cut the ribbon, said there was no denying the road had been a long time coming.
"More than 30 years ago, this stretch of land was earmarked as a road corridor," he said.
"Since then, successive councils have fought strongly and campaigned hard for its construction.
"It will mean a safer road system for our community.
"Having an alternative to using the congested Pacific Highway on a daily basis will be an enormous relief to many, many thousands of the area's residents.
"From today, traffic volumes on the highway will drop by up to 5000 vehicles. By 2011, we expect that 14,000 fewer vehicles will be using the highway through the city than before."
Cr Rhoades said the new road would enhance public transport, cycleway and pedestrian access, and ease "beyond recognition" congestion on the Jetty Strip.
The extension would provide a "highly effective" alternative route between the southern and northern suburbs and a "magnificent gateway to our city", he said.
He said months of heavy rain had dogged the project but it had not stopped council staff and contractors from getting the job done.
The ceremony included the blessing of the new Bangalor Bridge over Coffs Creek and a parade of vintage and prestige cars before the new road was tested during a community walk/cycle/scooter/skateboard.
The road was open to normal traffic at 4pm, much to the delight of the many motorists who sealed their places in history.